Power and politics

From the radicalism of the Romantic poets to the violent suppression of protests, the 18th and 19th centuries were peppered with incidents of political upheaval.  How did power and politics feature centrally in some of the period’s great works of literature?
William Blake's radical politics

William Blake's radical politics

Article by:
Andrew Lincoln

The French Revolution inspired London radicals and reformers to increase their demands for change. Others called for moderation and stability, while the government tried to suppress radical activity. Professor Andrew Lincoln describes the political environment in which William Blake was writing.

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Elizabeth Barrett Browning: Social and Political Issues

Elizabeth Barrett Browning: social and political issues

Article by:
Simon Avery

From industrialisation to slavery, Dr Simon Avery looks at the 19th century social and political issues that fed into Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s poetry.

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Middlemarch: reform and change

Middlemarch: reform and change

Article by:
John Mullan

Middlemarch is set in the period leading up to the 1832 Reform Act. Professor John Mullan explores how George Eliot uses the novel to examine different kinds of reform and progress: political, scientific and social.

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The Peterloo Massacre

The Peterloo Massacre

Article by:
Ruth Mather

In August 1819 dozens of peaceful protestors were killed and hundreds injured at what became known as the Peterloo Massacre. Ruth Mather examines the origins, response and aftermath of this key early 19th century political event.

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An introduction to The War of the Worlds

An introduction to The War of the Worlds

Article by:
Iain Sinclair

Writer Iain Sinclair discusses how H G Wells’s The War of the Worlds disturbed the public by combining journalistic sensationalism, scientific fantasy, suburban mundanity and fears of invasion.

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H G Wells’s politics

H G Wells’s politics

Article by:
Matthew Taunton

H G Wells was a committed socialist whose political writing influenced, among other things, the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Dr Matthew Taunton considers how Wells engaged with socialist ideas in his journalism, social commentary and fiction.

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Chartism

Chartism

Article by:
David Avery

David Avery examines the aims of the Chartist movement, considering to what extent their campaigns reformed the British electoral system.

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The impact of the French Revolution in Britain

The impact of the French Revolution in Britain

Article by:
Ruth Mather

Ruth Mather considers how Britain's intellectual, political and creative circles responded to the French Revolution.

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The impact of the Napoleonic Wars in Britain

The impact of the Napoleonic Wars in Britain

Article by:
Ruth Mather

The start of the 19th century was a time of hostility between France and England, marked by a series of wars. Throughout this period, England feared a French invasion led by Napoleon. Ruth Mather explores the impact of this fear on literature and on everyday life.

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British slave narratives

British slave narratives

Article by:
Brycchan Carey

From the mid-18th century, Africans and people of African descent – many of them former slaves – began to write down their stories. Brycchan Carey describes these writings and assesses their role in the abolition of slavery.

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The imperial Gothic

The imperial Gothic

Article by:
Suzanne Daly

Late 19th-century writers combined traditional elements of the Gothic with settings around the British Empire. Associate Professor Suzanne Daly explores the influences and preoccupations of these imperial Gothic novels, which include works by H Rider Haggard, Rudyard Kipling and Richard Marsh.

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Echoes of Empire

Echoes of Empire

Article by:
Tim Youngs

Professor Tim Youngs considers how Victorian authors chronicled and questioned Britain’s imperial expansion.

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Further themes

Romanticism

What inspired the iconic poetry of the Romantic period?

The Gothic

What characterises Gothic literature and what does it reveal about the periods in which it was written?

Childhood and children's literature

Was children’s literature intended to entertain or instruct?

Crime and crime fiction

Why was crime such a popular subject in 19th-century fiction?

The novel 1780-1832

From Georgian gentry to Gothic horror, what characterised the literature of this period?

The novel 1832 - 1880

How did the iconic writers of this period experiment with fantasy, sensationalism, realism and social commentary?

Fin de siècle

How did the literature of this period reflect attitudes to gender, sexuality, immigration, class and scientific discovery?

Victorian poetry

How did the Victorian poets approach composition, form and language, and what inspired their subjects?

Popular culture

From music hall to pleasure gardens, explore the extraordinary range of entertainments on offer in Georgian and Victorian Britain.

Poverty and the working classes

How did Victorian writers respond to the shocking inequalities of Victorian society?

Reading and print culture

How did rising literacy rates, libraries and new technologies influence the literature people read?

Technology and science

How did 19th century authors respond to the new possibilities afforded by technology and science?

The middle classes

How were the tensions surrounding social mobility explored in the literature of the period?

Visions of the future

How did the 19th-century literature reflect contemporary fears of social, political and technological change?

Gender and sexuality

How were gender roles embedded in the literature of the period and were they ever subverted?