Dickens in Context


These resources will allow you to investigate the key themes of Dickens's novels alongside original source material from the British Library. Literary manuscripts, newspapers, letters, workhouse records and many more fascinating collection items will help students open up the social, cultural and political context in which Dickens was writing. 

This website includes performances by Simon Callow and discussions by Professor of English, John Mullan, filmed at the Charles Dickens Museum, London.

Poverty & Wealth

By the 1830s, Dickens was a man of rising fortunes, but he knew that just below his comfortable middle class readership lay the abyss of poverty.


Prisons & Crime

What does crime represent for Dickens? The dark realities of urban life - but also sensationalism, sentimentality, entertainment.


Literature & Social Campaigning

Dickens dared speak directly to his readers. Sometimes he exhorted them, roused them to indignation, even buttonholed them, about the injustices of their world.



Dickens had a horror of repetitive factory work. In his novels he vividly depicted the working conditions of industrial England.



Dickens was the first great novelist in English to make the pleasures and (especially) the pains of childhood central to his fiction.



Dickens is a master of the grotesque. His descriptions of London slums or Northern industrial towns are both utterly believable and utterly fantastical.



Dickens had a revolutionary style of publishing to excite the interest of his readers - he published in instalments.


Dickens as a Performer

Unusually for a writer of the time, Dickens performed all of his novels to the public.