The social context in 18th century English Literature
THE SOCIAL CONTEXT IN 18TH
General features of 17th century social backround
The situation at the beginning of the augustan age
The Rise of Middle Class
The Downside of the Progress
Population/ Transportation /Methodists
WHAT WE SAW IN 17TH CENTURY??
17th century was a time of constant religious and
This age stabilized the relationships between
church and state, Parliment and monarchy.
These regulations provided a base for future
economic and colonial expansion.
%80 of the population made their living off land.
Colonial expansion improved the quality of life.
Pepper and other spicies were brought and meat was
avaliable all year any more.
People’s free time was influenced by the political
issues.For example, in Puritan period, all public
entertainment was banned and theatres were closed.
In restoration period, people started having fun again and
London became a theatrical centre with various kinds of
sports and plays.
An economic policy called Mercantilism was put into
The outbreak of plague and the Great Fire of 1666
decimated the population and destroyed most of the
BRITAIN (1702-1776) , AUGUSTAN AGE
POLITICAL AND RELIGIOUS DIVISIONS
THE RISE OF MIDDLE CLASS
There was a prevailing spirit of optimism among the
A tendency to put faith in the rational capabilities of
man in keeping with the intellectual climate of
Romanticism raised its furiously anti-classical head.
Order, reason and balance ruled the day and as a
consequence of this, rational discoveries occured.
John Locke and Sir Isaac Newton played an important
role in bringing about a new way of considering the
world which surrounds us.
Rebellion, under the guise of romanticism, was lurking
impatiently in the wings in the same time.
Sir Isaac Newton
Romanticism is rising
JOHN LOCKE (1632-1704)
For centuries, agriculture provided employment for
most of the population.
Little had changed, in 1700, farmers and peasants
still grew crops and raised sheep.
In order to meet the ever- increasing demand for
wool, the system of land enclosure was intensified.
The common lands were split up and fenced into large
farms by wealthy farmers.
These farms enabled sheep and cattle to survive in the
Land Enclosures became highly efficient and provided
the necessary raw material for the booming clothing
industry and growing industrial revolution.
THE START OF INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION
With wool, being produced in greater quantities than ever, new
technologies and efficient labour organisation were needed to
transform it into the finished products that expanding market
To satisfy this demand, small factories were built.
Wool and cloth were the prime sources of wealth during the early
years, coal and iron were the foundation stones on which the
revolution was built.
The production was split up and each worker did one
Along with the innovative work practices,
mechanisation was the key to success for newly-born
British industrial sector.
As a giant step, automatic looms that could make cloth
quickly were invented.
Both industry and agriculture had met the challanges of a
changing world by innovating and modernising.
The establishment of the Bank of England(1964) complemented
the the establishment of insurance and trading companies.
Economic and business life became respectable in the hands of an
emerging middle class consisting of bankers, traders, merchants.
These changes improved the quality of life for many, but others
found their lifes upside-down and struggled to come to terms with
a new world.
The total population of England was far smaller than
today,less than a large contemporary city.
The poor were by far the the largest part of the
It was difficult to calculate changes in size and
distribution of the population because the census was
forbidden for hiding the weakness from populous
France. Also they thought that a cencus would subvert
the individual liberty.
One thing is clear, the population grew greatly in this
London had become a modern city, the
commercial and cultural centre of
England, doubling its population to one million.
British society was slowly but surely became more
industrialised as the century wore on.
is a founding book of modern economic thought. Smith
criticised Britan’s trade policies and argued that labour was
the real source of wealth.
Lands were enclosed and common land became scare ,
because of that so many peasants had to find other ways
Many went to work in cities , the others remained in
country and fell into poverty.
Workhouses were built all over the country in order to
deal with the increasing number of poor peasants.
Many people who went to cities found job, but they had
to endure subhuman living and working conditions.
Factories need so much workers so the women, men
No allowance was given for the children, they had to
work the same long hours and endure the same unhealthy
The people in the rural often lived in two-room
cottages or in mud hovels.
Cities were even worse than rural areas. Many
families lived in overcrowded slums without any
form of sanitation. Some people didn’t have beds
and they slept on the floor.
It is estimated that only one child in four in London
became an adult.
Crime was another great problem of this period.
Considering the small number of wealthy people
and vast number of poor, the results are
New capital offences were created. For
example, someone could be hanged for picking a
pocket to the value of 12 pence, or for being found in
the company of gypsies.
QUALITY OF LIFE
Hospitals bacame a feature of most new towns and life
expectancy increased for those who managed to survive.
Many towns collected a new tax called ‘’rates’’. This
money was used for improving living conditions. A
sense of civic pride developed among the inhabitants.
In this period , the poor were not yet organized
politically. But there were so much small riots.
But these were very limited and without any political
John Wesley (17031791)
Methodism was the first of the
organized movements of the poor.
John Wesley was the founder of this
Wesley offered humility and hard
work as a solution to the problems
of the poor people.
He adressed the sipiritual needs.
COFFEE HOUSES & GIN
Two drinks played an important role in 18th century in Britain.
Drinking alcohol with gambling was a way to escape from
tiredness of the working day.
So gin palaces bacame the favorite places with cheap liquor .
The social effect of heavy drinking was devastating, families were
ruined and the cities were full of drunken mobs.
Coffee was brought with colonies. The first coffee
house was opened in London and followed by many in
They were favorite meeting places for the middle and
upper-classes who exchanged information about politics,
literature and business.
THE RISE OF MIDDLE CLASS
The voice of middle classes was not heard only in coffee
houses but in society at large.
They were the people who had become rich thanks to
the agricultural and industrial revolutions.
They were farmers who modernised their enclosed
lands, the factory owners who has entrepreneurial spirit
and the merchants who traded around the world.
THE EFFECTS ON LITERATURE
The reading public was
changing and taste for reading
Female readers become
increasingly important, as fine
ladies have much leisure times.
The rising middle-class were
hungry for knowledge , literary
representations of changing
Coffee houses became the centre
of active public opinion about