Explore the lives and works of key writers from a period that ushered in political unrest, social change and new literary forms.

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  • Philip Pullman's introduction to Paradise Lost

    Philip Pullman's introduction to Paradise Lost

    Philip Pullman first read Paradise Lost as a schoolboy and was dazzled by the sound of its poetry as he and his classmates read it aloud. Since then, he has become fascinated by Milton's tremendous powers of storytelling, and the ways in which he creates narrative tension, complex moods and vivid characters.

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    Preface to Sancho: An Act of Remembrance

    Paterson Joseph describes how his research into Black British history led him to write his first play, Sancho: An Act of Remembrance. In this one-man show, Paterson Joseph inhabits the life of Ignatius Sancho, the 18th-century composer, aspiring actor, letter-writer and anti-slavery campaigner, who became the first person of African descent to vote in a British general election.

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    An introduction to Evelina

    Frances Burney’s Evelina unveils the dizzying and dangerous social whirl of Georgian London, where reputations and marriages are there to be made and broken. Dr Chloe Wigston Smith investigates Burney’s critique of fashion culture and the demands it places on women, in a novel that prizes feminine resilience.

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    An introduction to Gulliver’s Travels

    Jonathan Swift initially did his best to conceal the fact that he was the author of Gulliver's Travels. John Mullan explores how Swift constructed the work to operate as an elaborate game, parodying travel literature, pretending to be an autobiography and containing obviously false facts presented by a deeply unreliable narrator.

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  • Turbulent 17th century crop depicting Oliver Cromwell cutting down the tree of the monarchy

    The turbulent 17th century: Civil War, regicide, the Restoration and the Glorious Revolution

    The 17th century was a time of great political and social turmoil in England, marked by civil war and regicide. Matthew White introduces the key events of this period, from the coronation of Charles I to the Glorious Revolution more than 60 years later.

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    Frances Burney's account of her ‘terrible operation’

    The diarist and novelist Frances Burney was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1810 and wrote an account of her ‘terrible operation’ for her sisters. Jenni Murray considers why this is one of the most courageous pieces of writing she has ever encountered.

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    9 volumes of Tristram Shandy - bookbindings

    The rise of the novel

    John Mullan explains how the novel took shape in the 18th century with the works of Daniel Defoe, Samuel Richardson, Henry Fielding and Laurence Sterne, and the ways in which the book industry both shaped and responded to the new genre.

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    African writers and Black thought in 18th-century Britain: Banner

    African writers and Black thought in 18th-century Britain

    By 1780, there were at least 20,000 black people living in Britain. S I Martin describes how four writers, taken from Africa as children and sold into slavery, grew up to write works that challenged British ideas about race, called for African brotherhood and demanded the abolition of the slave trade.

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    Johnson's Dictionary: Myths and realities

    David Crystal looks past the myths surrounding Samuel Johnson's Dictionary to discover a work of remarkable precision, sensitivity and attention to social and regional variation.

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    Robinson Crusoe: A world classic

    Michael Seidel explains how Daniel Defoe came to write Robinson Crusoe, and why the novel and its protagonist have fascinated readers for centuries.

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    An introduction to 18th-century British theatre

    Andrew Dickson charts the growth of 18th-century theatre, looking at the new venues, stage technology, audiences, playwrights and great actors of the age.

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    The Rape of the Lock: A darker mirror

    Andrew Macdonald-Brown shows how Alexander Pope's The Rape of the Lock progresses from satirising the foolishness of wealthy young women to exposing the violence that results from unequal power relations, whether between men and women, rich and poor or imperial powers and colonised nations.

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Themes

Rise of the novel

Discover how the novel emerged as a new literary form in the 18th century and examine pioneering texts, from Oroonoko and Robinson Crusoe to Gulliver’s Travels and Pamela.

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Politics and religion theme

Politics and religion

The Civil Wars and the Restoration of the monarchy, the Enlightenment or ‘Age of Reason’, and British colonialism: investigate the political and religious contexts of Restoration and 18th-century literature.

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Gender and sexuality theme

Gender and sexuality

Examine representations of gender and sexuality in Restoration and 18th-century literature including Paradise Lost and The Rape of the Lock, and explore the works of early women writers such as Aphra Behn, Frances Burney and Margaret Cavendish.

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Travel, trade, colonialism and Empire theme

Travel, colonialism and slavery

From Robinson Crusoe to the anti-slavery activism of Olaudah Equiano and the letters of Ignatius Sancho: explore a range of writing produced during an age of travel, trade and colonial conquest, in which Britain vastly expanded its Empire, fuelled by its involvement in slavery and the transatlantic slave trade.

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People

Explore key writers of the Restoration and 18th century

Works of literature

Explore key literary works of the Restoration and 18th century

Paradise Lost

Created by: John Milton

Paradise Lost overview Paradise Lost is an epic poem (12 books, totalling more than 10,500 lines) written in blank ...

The Rover

Created by: Aphra Behn

The Rover overview One of Aphra Behn’s most successful and celebrated plays, The Rover is a classic ...

The School for Scandal

Created by: Richard Brinsley Sheridan

The School for Scandal (1777) overview  The critic and essayist William Hazlitt called Richard Brinsley ...