The Introduction first considers the etymological and historical meanings of decadence. Different interpretations of the word “decadence” point to historical decline, social decay, and aesthetic inferiority. Decadence today may be best understood as the aesthetic expression of a conflicted attitude toward modernity, which first arose in nineteenth-century France and is best expressed by the author Charles Baudelaire (1821–1867). Decadence then “travelled” to London, where Oscar Wilde (1854–1900) became the preeminent decadent writer. Other metropolitan centers that made up part of the urban geography of decadence during the fifty-year period (1880–1930) of decadence’s peak were fin-de-siècle Vienna and Weimar Berlin.