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How was childhood depicted in the literature of the 18th and 19th century, and how were perceptions of childhood different from those of today? Was children’s literature intended to entertain or instruct?
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is crammed with animals: a grinning cat, a talking rabbit, an enormous caterpillar and countless others. Dr Martin Dubois explores anthropomorphism and nonsense in Lewis Carroll’s novel, revealing the literary traditions that underpin it – and those it inspired.Read More
Professor John Bowen and Ann Dinsdale discuss the fantasy worlds of Gondal and Angria, created by the Brontë children, and the lasting influence of these on the sisters’ later novels. Filmed at the Brontë Parsonage, Haworth.View Video
Novels such as Oliver Twist have made Victorian child-thieves familiar to us, but to what extent did juvenile crime actually exist in the 19th century? Drawing on contemporary accounts and printed ephemera, Dr Matthew White uncovers the facts behind the fiction.Read More
Michael Phillips compares the title page of William Blake’s Songs of Innocence to an earlier children’s book, in order to reveal Blake's progressive views on the importance and power of childhood.Read More
Children's author Philip Ardagh looks at how Lewis Carroll transforms the highly-ritualised, rule-bound nature of 19th-century mealtimes into the madcap hilarity of the Hatter's tea party.Read More
In the mid-18th century, childhood began to be viewed in a positive light, as a state of freedom and innocence. Professor Kimberley Reynolds explores how this new approach influenced 18th and 19th-century writers, some of whom wished they could preserve childhood indefinitely.Read More
Industrialisation led to a dramatic increase in child labour. Professor Emma Griffin explores the dangerous, exhausting work undertaken by children in factories and mines, and the literary responses of writers including Charles Dickens and Elizabeth Barrett Browning.Read More
Julian Walker looks at William Blake’s poetry in the context of 18th-century children’s literature, considering how the poems’ attitudes towards childhood challenge traditional ideas about moral education during that period.Read More
Ragged Schools provided free education for children too poor to receive it elsewhere. Imogen Lee explains the origins and aims of the movement that established such schools, focusing on the London’s Field Lane Ragged School, which Charles Dickens visited.Read More
What are the key motifs of Gothic literature and how do these works reflect the contexts in which the genre emerged and evolved?
From the origins of the Gothic to depictions of the emerging middle classes, what are the key characteristics of late 18th- and early 19th-century literature?
How did the writers of this period incorporate fantasy, realism, sensationalism, and social commentary into their work?
How did the literature of this period reflect attitudes to gender, sexuality, immigration, class and scientific discovery?
How did the Victorian poets approach composition, form and language, and what inspired their subjects?
From music hall to pleasure gardens, explore the extraordinary range of entertainments on offer in Georgian and Victorian Britain.
How did writers respond to the social inequalities of Victorian society?
How did rising literacy rates, libraries and new technologies influence literature and reading habits during this period?
How did 19th-century authors respond to the new possibilities afforded by technology and science?
How were the tensions surrounding social mobility explored in the literature of the period?
How did 19th-century depictions of the future reflect contemporary fears of social, political and technological change?