Visions of the future

From eccentric inventions to fears of invasion; from social degeneration to visions of apocalypse – how did literary depictions of the future reflect contemporary fears of social, technological and political change?

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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Class in The Time Machine

Class in The Time Machine

Article by:
Matthew Taunton

Dr Matthew Taunton reveals how The Time Machine reflects H G Wells’s fascination with class division, the effects of capitalism and the evolution of the human race.

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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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An introduction to The Island of Dr. Moreau: science, sensation and degeneration

An introduction to The Island of Dr. Moreau: science, sensation and degeneration

Article by:
Roger Luckhurst

Roger Luckhurst looks at H G Wells’s The Island of Dr. Moreau as a text that both provoked and explored feelings of disgust, reflecting late-Victorian questions and fears about vivisection, cannibalism and evolutionary degeneration.

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The end of the world

The end of the world

Article by:
Mike Ashley

Disease, famine, pollution and peculiar weather seemed to threaten human survival in the 19th century. Mike Ashley considers the apocalyptic literature that this climate of uncertainty produced.

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Inventing the future

Inventing the future

Article by:
Mike Ashley

Mike Ashley explores how the technological changes initiated by the Industrial Revolution inspired 19th-century writers.

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The fear of invasion

The fear of invasion

Article by:
Mike Ashley

In the 19th century, the British feared invasion by the French, terrorists and even aliens. Mike Ashley explains how these concerns were reflected in literature.

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Victorian utopias

Victorian utopias

Article by:
Marcus Waithe

The nature of the ideal society has occupied philosophers and writers for millennia. Here Dr Marcus Waithe considers how Victorian writers such as H G Wells, William Morris and Edward Bulwer-Lytton re-imagined their own society and envisaged utopian futures.

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Post Darwin: social Darwinism, degeneration, eugenics

Post Darwin: social Darwinism, degeneration, eugenics

Article by:
Carolyn Burdett

Dr Carolyn Burdett explores how Victorian thinkers used Darwin's theory of evolution in forming their own social, economic and racial theories, thereby extending Darwin's influence far beyond its original sphere.

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From socialist news to fine art printing: William Morris's News from Nowhere

Creating a utopian future: William Morris's News from Nowhere

Article by:
Marcus Waithe

In News from Nowhere, William Morris imagines a utopian future in which money, ‘wage slavery’ and marriage have been abolished. Dr Marcus Waithe explores the origins of this iconic socialist work.

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Further themes

Romanticism

How did the Romantic poets explore landscape, class, radicalism and the sublime?

The Gothic

What are the key motifs of Gothic literature and how do these works reflect the contexts in which the genre emerged and evolved?

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?

London

How did the writers of this period portray our iconic capital city?

The novel 1780–1832

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?

The novel 1832–1880

How did the writers of this period incorporate fantasy, realism, sensationalism, and social commentary into their work?

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 writers respond to the social inequalities of Victorian society?

Power and politics

How did writers respond to the tumultuous political events of this period?

Reading and print culture

How did rising literacy rates, libraries and new technologies influence literature and reading habits during this period?

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 19th-century depictions of the future reflect contemporary fears of social, political and technological change?

Gender and sexuality

How did the literature of this period portray and challenge traditional gender roles?