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- Augustan Literature: A Guide to Restoration and Eighteenth Century Literature, 1660-1789 LAU Stacks PR441 .A84 1994
- The Cambridge History of American Literature LAU Stacks PS92 .C34 1994 vol. 1-8
- The Encyclopedia of English Renaissance Literature LAU Stacks PR411 .E53 2012 vol. 1-3
- Renaissance: The Elizabethan World Provides background information about life and culture in Elizabethan England. Includes A Compendium of Common Knowledge 1558-1603, Elizabethan Heraldry, Elizabethan Sumptuary Statutes, and The Trial of the Earls of Essex and Southampton, 1601.
- 17th-18th Century Burney Collection Newspapers This link opens in a new window Gathered by Reverend Charles Burney, 17th-18th Century Burney Collection Newspapers is a collection of the newspapers and news pamphlets primarily published in London, with some English provincial, Irish and Scottish papers, and examples from the American colonies. The original Burney volumes are now in a poor physical state and only available through restricted use.
- Gale Primary Sources This link opens in a new window Searches across Gale primary source collections, including Eighteenth Century Collections Online (ECCO); Nineteenth Century Collections Online (NCCO); Sabin Americana, 1500-1926; The Making of Modern Law; and The Making of the Modern World . more... less... You can select the Primary Source collections from the Gale Product menu by selecting, "Primary Sources".
- BBC Shakespeare Plays This link opens in a new window Premier collection of BBC productions of Shakespeare's plays, available via streaming server and on mobile devices. The plays are chaptered by acts, which allows you to zoom directly to a desired segment.
- British Literary Manuscripts This link opens in a new window A digitized collection of manuscripts of British authors dating from roughly 1120 to 1900. Contains poems, plays, novels, diaries, journals, correspondence, and other papers from major library collections, reproduced in facsimile and searchable via detailed descriptive information.
- British Periodicals This link opens in a new window Facsimile page images and searchable full text for nearly 500 British periodicals published from the 17th through the early 20th centuries. Topics covered include literature, philosophy, history, science, the fine arts, archaeology, architecture, and the social sciences.
- Cambridge Edition of the Works of Ben Jonson Online This link opens in a new window Presents a fully searchable version of Jonson's complete works, including all the original introductions, collations, and commentary. Includes a comprehensive body of essays and archives necessary for full study of Jonson’s life, performance history, and afterlife. Comprises around 90 old-spelling texts, 550 contextual documents, 80 essays, several hundred high-quality images, and 100 music scores; lists details of more than 1300 stage performances; and has a cross-linked bibliography of over 7000 items
- Caribbean Newspapers, 1718-1876 This link opens in a new window More than 140 newspapers from 22 islands, including Antigua, Bahamas, Barbados, Bermuda, Cuba, Curaçao, Dominica, Grenada, Guadaloupe, Haiti, Jamaica, Martinique, Montserrat, Nevis, Puerto Rico, St. Bartholomew, St. Christopher, St. Lucia, St. Vincent, Tobago, Trinidad, and the Virgin Islands.
- DEEP: Database of Early English Playbooks Contains every playbook produced in England, Scotland, and Ireland from the beginning of printing through 1660 along with information about the original playbooks, their title-pages, paratextual matter, advertising features, bibliographic details, and theatrical backgrounds.
- The Donmar Shakespeare Trilogy on Screen This link opens in a new window Part of Bloomsbury's Drama Online collection, Harriet Walter leads an all-female cast in these three productions of Julius Caesar, Henry IV and The Tempest, all set in a women's prison. Inspiration for these productions sprung from the real-life women who have experienced the criminal justice system.
- Drama Online: National Theatre Collection This link opens in a new window Drawing on 10 years of National Theatre Live broadcasts, alongside high-quality recordings never previously seen outside of the NT’s Archive, the National Theatre Collection makes this rich body of work available to students in schools, universities and libraries around the world. The collection contains 30 full length recordings of National Theatre performances.
- Drama Online: Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) Live Collection This link opens in a new window Bloomsbury's Drama Online: Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) Live Collection provides access to filmed Live performances of Shakespearean plays staged and acted by the Royal Shakespeare Company. This growing collection currently consists of 24 performances with more scheduled to be included throughout the year. more... less... In 2013 the company began live screenings of its Shakespeare productions, captured here in The RSC Live Collection. In 2016-17 the company collaborated with Intel and The Imaginarium Studios to stage The Tempest, bringing performance capture to the Royal Shakespeare Theatre for the very first time.
- Early American Imprints (Series I): Evans, 1639-1800 This link opens in a new window Based on the Evans American Bibliography, this collection contains the full text of all known existing books, pamphlets and broadsides printed in the United States or in the British American colonies from 1639 through 1800. It provides a foundation for research in early American history, literature, philosophy, religion, politics and nearly every aspect of life in early America. more... less... When completed, the digital collection will include every item previously published in microform by Readex, plus more than 1,200 additional works located, catalogued and digitized since the microform effort was completed -- more than 36,000 works and 2,400,000 images.
- Early American Newspapers This link opens in a new window Offers more than 700 historical American newspapers from 23 states and the District of Columbia printed between 1690 and 1876. Focusing largely on the 18th century, Series 1 is based on Clarence S. Brigham's "History and Bibliography of American Newspapers, 1690-1820" and other authoritative bibliographies.
- Early Americas Digital Archive A collection of digital texts written in or about the Americas between 1492 and 1820. May be searched or browsed by author or title.
- Early English Books Online (EEBO) This link opens in a new window Features page images of almost every work printed in the British Isles and North America, as well as works in English printed elsewhere from 1470-1700. From the first book printed in English through to the ages of Spenser, Shakespeare and of the English Civil War, EEBO's content draws on authoritative and respected short-title catalogues of the period and features a substantial number of text transcriptions.
- Early English Books Online (EEBO) Text Creation Partnership (TCP) This link opens in a new window A partner database to Early English Books Online. Provides a subset of fully searchable texts from the titles available in EEBO. more... less... Any EEBO researcher can view the 250,000 page-image editions of EEBO titles, but only TCP partners can view these plus the corresponding full ASCII text.
- Emory Women Writers Resource Project A collection of edited and unedited texts by women writing from the seventeenth century through the early twentieth century.
- The English Renaissance in Context (ERIC) Provides tutorials on the making of Shakespeare's plays and a database of scanned texts from the Furness Shakespeare Library.
- Europeana This link opens in a new window Online access to paintings, music, films and books from Europe's galleries, libraries, archives and museums.
- Gale Primary Source Newspapers This link opens in a new window Provides cross-searching capabilities for several Gale digital collections, including 17th and 18th Century Burney Collection Newspapers, 19th Century British Library Newspapers, 19th Century UK Periodicals, Illustrated London News Historical Archive 1842-2003, Times Digital Archive 1785-1985, Times Literary Supplement Historical Archive 1902-2006, Picture Post Historical Archive 1938-1957.
- Global Shakespeares Online access to performances of Shakespeare from many parts of the world.
- Leeds Verse Database (BCMSV) Provides detailed information about individual items of English poetry contained in the 17th and 18th-century manuscripts from the Brotherton Collection at the University of Leeds.
- Luminarium: Anthology of English Literature Provides an online anthology of literature from Middle English, the Renaissance, & the 17th century. Includes essays, articles, and selected texts.
- Making of the Modern World This link opens in a new window Collection of digital facsimile images of 61,000 works of literature on economics and business published from 1450 through 1945. Covers commerce, finance, social conditions, politics, trade and transport. Includes: Part I: The Goldsmiths'-Kress Collection, 1450-1850 Part II, 1851-1914
- Medieval and Early Modern Sources Online This link opens in a new window Medieval and Early Modern Sources Online (MEMSO) is an essential resource for the study of Britain and its place in the world during the medieval and early modern period (c. 1100-1800).
- Renascence Editions An online repository for digital editions of works printed in English between 1477 and 1799.
- Sabin Americana, 1500-1926 This link opens in a new window Based on Joseph Sabin's landmark bibliography, this collection contains works about the Americas published throughout the world from 1500 to the early 1900s. Included are books, pamphlets, serials and other documents that provide original accounts of exploration, trade, colonialism, slavery and abolition, the western movement, Native Americans, military actions and much more.
- The Shakespeare Quartos Archive A collection of of pre-1642 editions of William Shakespeare's plays.
Use the below guides to go deeper into your research.
- American Literary Manuscripts A checklist of literary manuscript holdings in academic, historical, and public libraries, museums, and authors' homes in the United States.
- ArchiveGrid A searchable collection of finding aids to primary source material held in archives, special collections, and manuscript collections around the world. Includes historical documents, personal papers, family histories, and more.
- Catalogue of English Literary Manuscripts, 1450-1700 A freely-accessible record of surviving manuscript sources for over 200 major British authors.
- English Short Title Catalogue (ESTC) Indexes more than 460,000 that were published between 1473 and 1800 primarily in Britain and North America. Works are predominantly in English and are from the collections of the British Library and over 2,000 other libraries.
- A Short-Title Catalogue of Books Printed in England, Scotland, & Ireland and of English Books Printed Abroad, 1475-1640 (Pollard & Redgrave) LAU Ref Stacks Z2002 .P77 1976 vol. 1-3
- Short-Title Catalogue of Books Printed in England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, and British America, and of English Books Printed in Other Countries, 1641-1700 (Wing) LAU Ref Stacks Z2002 .W5 vol. 1-3, Index
The following sections are good for browsing for books on 16th & 17th century literature, which are shelved on the 5th floor of Lauinger Library.
PE814-896 – Early Modern English.
PR421-429 – Elizabethan Era (1550-1640)
PR431-439 – 17th century
PR2199-3195 – English Renaissance (1500-1640)
PR3291-3785 – 17th & 18th centuries (1640/1770)
PS185-195 – 17th and 18th centuries
PS700-893 – Individual authors - Colonial Period (17th and 18th centuries)
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- Last Updated: Nov 16, 2023 10:27 AM
- URL: https://guides.library.georgetown.edu/english
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By: History.com Editors
Updated: August 11, 2023 | Original: April 4, 2018
The Renaissance was a fervent period of European cultural, artistic, political and economic “rebirth” following the Middle Ages. Generally described as taking place from the 14th century to the 17th century, the Renaissance promoted the rediscovery of classical philosophy, literature and art.
Some of the greatest thinkers, authors, statesmen, scientists and artists in human history thrived during this era, while global exploration opened up new lands and cultures to European commerce. The Renaissance is credited with bridging the gap between the Middle Ages and modern-day civilization.
From Darkness to Light: The Renaissance Begins
During the Middle Ages , a period that took place between the fall of ancient Rome in 476 A.D. and the beginning of the 14th century, Europeans made few advances in science and art.
Also known as the “Dark Ages,” the era is often branded as a time of war, ignorance, famine and pandemics such as the Black Death .
Some historians, however, believe that such grim depictions of the Middle Ages were greatly exaggerated, though many agree that there was relatively little regard for ancient Greek and Roman philosophies and learning at the time.
During the 14th century, a cultural movement called humanism began to gain momentum in Italy. Among its many principles, humanism promoted the idea that man was the center of his own universe, and people should embrace human achievements in education, classical arts, literature and science.
In 1450, the invention of the Gutenberg printing press allowed for improved communication throughout Europe and for ideas to spread more quickly.
As a result of this advance in communication, little-known texts from early humanist authors such as those by Francesco Petrarch and Giovanni Boccaccio, which promoted the renewal of traditional Greek and Roman culture and values, were printed and distributed to the masses.
Additionally, many scholars believe advances in international finance and trade impacted culture in Europe and set the stage for the Renaissance.
The Renaissance started in Florence, Italy, a place with a rich cultural history where wealthy citizens could afford to support budding artists.
Members of the powerful Medici family , which ruled Florence for more than 60 years, were famous backers of the movement.
Great Italian writers, artists, politicians and others declared that they were participating in an intellectual and artistic revolution that would be much different from what they experienced during the Dark Ages.
The movement first expanded to other Italian city-states, such as Venice, Milan, Bologna, Ferrara and Rome. Then, during the 15th century, Renaissance ideas spread from Italy to France and then throughout western and northern Europe.
Although other European countries experienced their Renaissance later than Italy, the impacts were still revolutionary.
Some of the most famous and groundbreaking Renaissance intellectuals, artists, scientists and writers include the likes of:
- Leonardo da Vinci (1452–1519): Italian painter, architect, inventor and “Renaissance man” responsible for painting “The Mona Lisa” and “The Last Supper.
- Desiderius Erasmus (1466–1536): Scholar from Holland who defined the humanist movement in Northern Europe. Translator of the New Testament into Greek.
- Rene Descartes (1596–1650): French philosopher and mathematician regarded as the father of modern philosophy. Famous for stating, “I think; therefore I am.”
- Galileo (1564-1642): Italian astronomer, physicist and engineer whose pioneering work with telescopes enabled him to describes the moons of Jupiter and rings of Saturn. Placed under house arrest for his views of a heliocentric universe.
- Nicolaus Copernicus (1473–1543): Mathematician and astronomer who made first modern scientific argument for the concept of a heliocentric solar system.
- Thomas Hobbes (1588–1679): English philosopher and author of “Leviathan.”
- Geoffrey Chaucer (1343–1400): English poet and author of “The Canterbury Tales.”
- Giotto (1266-1337): Italian painter and architect whose more realistic depictions of human emotions influenced generations of artists. Best known for his frescoes in the Scrovegni Chapel in Padua.
- Dante (1265–1321): Italian philosopher, poet, writer and political thinker who authored “The Divine Comedy.”
- Niccolo Machiavelli (1469–1527): Italian diplomat and philosopher famous for writing “The Prince” and “The Discourses on Livy.”
- Titian (1488–1576): Italian painter celebrated for his portraits of Pope Paul III and Charles I and his later religious and mythical paintings like “Venus and Adonis” and "Metamorphoses."
- William Tyndale (1494–1536): English biblical translator, humanist and scholar burned at the stake for translating the Bible into English.
- William Byrd (1539/40–1623): English composer known for his development of the English madrigal and his religious organ music.
- John Milton (1608–1674): English poet and historian who wrote the epic poem “Paradise Lost.”
- William Shakespeare (1564–1616): England’s “national poet” and the most famous playwright of all time, celebrated for his sonnets and plays like “Romeo and Juliet."
- Donatello (1386–1466): Italian sculptor celebrated for lifelike sculptures like “David,” commissioned by the Medici family.
- Sandro Botticelli (1445–1510): Italian painter of “Birth of Venus.”
- Raphael (1483–1520): Italian painter who learned from da Vinci and Michelangelo. Best known for his paintings of the Madonna and “The School of Athens.”
- Michelangelo (1475–1564): Italian sculptor, painter and architect who carved “David” and painted The Sistine Chapel in Rome.
Renaissance Impact on Art, Architecture and Science
Art, architecture and science were closely linked during the Renaissance. In fact, it was a unique time when these fields of study fused together seamlessly.
For instance, artists like da Vinci incorporated scientific principles, such as anatomy into their work, so they could recreate the human body with extraordinary precision.
Architects such as Filippo Brunelleschi studied mathematics to accurately engineer and design immense buildings with expansive domes.
Scientific discoveries led to major shifts in thinking: Galileo and Descartes presented a new view of astronomy and mathematics, while Copernicus proposed that the Sun, not the Earth, was the center of the solar system.
Renaissance art was characterized by realism and naturalism. Artists strived to depict people and objects in a true-to-life way.
They used techniques, such as perspective, shadows and light to add depth to their work. Emotion was another quality that artists tried to infuse into their pieces.
Some of the most famous artistic works that were produced during the Renaissance include:
- The Mona Lisa (Da Vinci)
- The Last Supper (Da Vinci)
- Statue of David (Michelangelo)
- The Birth of Venus (Botticelli)
- The Creation of Adam (Michelangelo)
While many artists and thinkers used their talents to express new ideas, some Europeans took to the seas to learn more about the world around them. In a period known as the Age of Discovery, several important explorations were made.
Voyagers launched expeditions to travel the entire globe. They discovered new shipping routes to the Americas, India and the Far East and explorers trekked across areas that weren’t fully mapped.
Famous journeys were taken by Ferdinand Magellan , Christopher Columbus , Amerigo Vespucci (after whom America is named), Marco Polo , Ponce de Leon , Vasco Núñez de Balboa , Hernando De Soto and other explorers.
Humanism encouraged Europeans to question the role of the Roman Catholic church during the Renaissance.
As more people learned how to read, write and interpret ideas, they began to closely examine and critique religion as they knew it. Also, the printing press allowed for texts, including the Bible, to be easily reproduced and widely read by the people, themselves, for the first time.
In the 16th century, Martin Luther , a German monk, led the Protestant Reformation – a revolutionary movement that caused a split in the Catholic church. Luther questioned many of the practices of the church and whether they aligned with the teachings of the Bible.
As a result, a new form of Christianity , known as Protestantism, was created.
End of the Renaissance
Scholars believe the demise of the Renaissance was the result of several compounding factors.
By the end of the 15th century, numerous wars had plagued the Italian peninsula. Spanish, French and German invaders battling for Italian territories caused disruption and instability in the region.
Also, changing trade routes led to a period of economic decline and limited the amount of money that wealthy contributors could spend on the arts.
Later, in a movement known as the Counter-Reformation, the Catholic church censored artists and writers in response to the Protestant Reformation. Many Renaissance thinkers feared being too bold, which stifled creativity.
Furthermore, in 1545, the Council of Trent established the Roman Inquisition , which made humanism and any views that challenged the Catholic church an act of heresy punishable by death.
By the early 17th century, the Renaissance movement had died out, giving way to the Age of Enlightenment .
Debate Over the Renaissance
While many scholars view the Renaissance as a unique and exciting time in European history, others argue that the period wasn’t much different from the Middle Ages and that both eras overlapped more than traditional accounts suggest.
Also, some modern historians believe that the Middle Ages had a cultural identity that’s been downplayed throughout history and overshadowed by the Renaissance era.
While the exact timing and overall impact of the Renaissance is sometimes debated, there’s little dispute that the events of the period ultimately led to advances that changed the way people understood and interpreted the world around them.
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The Renaissance, History World International . The Renaissance – Why it Changed the World, The Telegraph . Facts About the Renaissance, Biography Online . Facts About the Renaissance Period, Interestingfacts.org . What is Humanism? International Humanist and Ethical Union . Why Did the Italian Renaissance End? Dailyhistory.org . The Myth of the Renaissance in Europe, BBC .
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17th century Literature and Science
From 'a history of the british nation' by ad innes, 1912.
Elizabethan Literary Legacy The system of national finance occupies a prominent position in the history of the seventeenth century, since for some three-fourths of the period it is a primary factor in the relations between the Crown and the parliament.
It is at the very root of the constitutional struggle; not because the people were afraid of being tyrannically taxed beyond endurance, not because they grudged money for public purposes, but because they recognised that the control of the purse ultimately entails the control of policy.
But since this constitutional struggle is itself the leading feature of the period to a much greater extent than at any other time in our history, national finance in its connection with that struggle has already been dealt with and requires little further elucidation.
In effect the outcome of the long fight was that the Restoration separated the personal income of the king from the public revenue of the kingdom which had hitherto been identified with it The regular revenue was appropriated to particular objects, while for all other objects additional revenue had to be voted by parliament; and in the course of the reign of Charles II the principle was finally laid down of appropriating the expenditure to the specific object for which the supplies had been granted.
The splendid virility, of the Elizabethan era had displayed itself in an astonishing .individual versatility typified in Walter Raleigh, who was equally fit to play the part of soldier, sailor, courtier, statesman, and man of letters. It was an age in which one man could conceive and depict Falstaff and Lear, Nick Bottom and Hamlet, Rosalind and Cleopatra. Not so were the elements mixed in the age which followed. The abounding delight in the exuberance of life and the appreciation of life's seriousness Paganism and Puritanism, parted company.
Paganism captured the court and Puritanism dominated the country. Puritanism as a force in literature gave to the world of its best in Milton and Bunyan. Paganism achieved nothing higher than the dainty lyrics of Herrick and the brilliant depravity of the Restoration comedy.
Even in the seventeenth century it is true that the world could not be divided into Puritans and Pagans; but at no other period had the two principles been so openly at war; and because they were so openly at war Puritanism assumed an extravagance of austerity, and Paganism an extravagance of wantonness, incompatible with consummate artistic achievement. Only the supreme genius of Milton and Bunyan made them exceptions. Paganism produced no Aristophanes to set against them.
Donne It must be remembered, however, that the borderland between the Elizabethan and the early Stuart literature lies not at the beginning but at the end of the reign of James I; that half of the "Elizabethan" drama was produced after the Union of the Crowns. And even when the generation of Elizabethans had died out, the hostility between Puritanism and Paganism was not by any means fully developed.
The immediate severance was rather that between the intellectual and the emotional, which must unite in the production of the greatest literary work, especially poetry. The pursuit of verbal ingenuities and intellectual subtleties, which had in fact been heralded by the Euphuists, dominated the cultivated taste of the time and produced what a later age chose to call the "metaphysical" poets, at whose head was John Donne.
The deeper feelings of men were concentrating upon religion and the passion for liberty, but they had not yet hardened into fanaticism. Comus is the consummate expression of the Puritanism which was at once spiritual and intellectual neither Roundhead nor Cavalier but characteristic of much that was best among the adherents of both sides when the Civil War broke out.
It was the Civil War itself which taught Milton to identify the Royalists with the Philistines, and to allegorise the struggle of Puritanism in the Samson Agonistes; while the essential unconquerable spirit at the heart of English Puritanism, independent of all the turmoil of war and faction, still found its sublime expression in the Paradise Lost.
Milton and Bunyan In Milton alone the most intense Puritanism was wedded to the highest intellectuality. Consciously his appeal was to a "fit audience though few." John Bunyan represents the Puritanism which took captive the humble and unlearned through its own essential humility and simplicity.
A man of the people, low born, with no social advantages, uneducated save for an intimate knowledge of the Scriptures and a considerable acquaintance with the controversial literature of Puritanism, John Bunyan followed the old advice of Sir Philip Sidney, "looked in his heart and wrote."
The immortal allegory of the Pilgrim's Progress displays the root quality of Puritanism, not turned arrogant by battling with the Devil, nor harsh by battling with the flesh, nor sour by the world's contempt and persecution. Incidentally it gives a delightfully vivid impression of eternal human types under the conditions of the England of the Restoration. But in the history of literature it stands out peculiarly as the precursor of the English novel which was about to be created by Daniel Defoe.
Puritan Literature The reign of King Charles I, the Civil War, and the rule of the Commonwealth were not favourable to literary production, except of a controversial character either political or religious. Pamphleteering flourished, but the lighter forms of writing could only be practised by those who were able to stand aloof altogether from the arena.
Yet such peaceful spirits were to be feared. There is nothing militant in the devotional prose of Jeremy Taylor or the devotional verse of George Herbert, the latter of whom lived to witness only the danger-signals of the storm, not the storm itself. There are few writers dearer to the true book-lover than Sir Thomas Browne, though not every one takes a genuine delight in the Religio Media.
Battles raged and kingdoms fell, but that did not prevent Isaac Walton from practising the most peaceful of recreations and writing the fisherman's supreme classic, while Milton was deserting his diviner muse to produce the Areopagitica, a masterpiece in political prose literature.
With the exception of Comus the great masterpieces of Puritan literature were actually produced after the Restoration. But the voices which prevailed were not those of Puritans. Milton was the survivor of an age of idealists, when men fought for causes with a splendid devotion, however antagonistic the causes themselves might be; when they were ready to die for "Church and King" or for "the Houses and the Word." The old ideals had shattered themselves.
The Restoration Era The new age which had dawned was materialist and cynical. The past age had been too much in earnest to be clever and witty; the new age was supremely clever and witty, being no longer in earnest. Therefore its tragedy was insincere, stilted, and unconvincing. Its comedy was brilliant, but it was not merely non-moral and irresponsible; it assumed in its reaction against Puritanism that virtue is redeemed from being contemptible only when circumstances render it comic.
And the note of the Restoration prevailed through the Revolution; the claims of decency remained in abeyance, so far as polite society was concerned, until the seventeenth century had passed. Milton, as we have said, belongs to the earlier age.
John Dryden Besides Bunyan's, the one other great literary name of the era is that of John Dryden, whose work practically covers the period from the Restoration to the end of the century. As befits the times in which he lived, Dryden's supreme achievement was in the field of satire. His political pieces Absalom and Achitophel and the Hind and the Panther are unsurpassed in their kind. But satire is essentially intellectual, appealing to the intelligent critical judgment, the taste of the audience.
If the poet's function is to express his own sense of beauty, what the Greeks meant by the phrase which we translate as "the beautiful," and to arouse the perception of it in others, the satirist is not a poet, since he is mainly concerned with denouncing and exposing the antithesis of the beautiful. Satire is the natural product of materialist conditions.
The Growth of Science Such conditions, on the other hand, are rather favourable to scientific inquiry, though they are by no means necessary to it. The era of the Restoration and the Revolution was one during which England achieved far more distinction in natural science and in the literature of Rationalism than in the literature of imagination and emotion.
But the scientific movement had its birth at a much earlier date, in the reign of James I, when Harvey was demonstrating the theory of the circulation of the blood and Bacon was formulating afresh the whole system of scientific thought. Living political problems inspired speculative inquiry into the bases of the political structure and the organisation of society.
Hobbes and the Social Contract Advocates of parliamentary control began to assert that kings were nothing more than the chief magistrates of the states over which they ruled. Advocates of Absolutism discovered that they ruled by right divine, which it was profanity to question.
Thomas Hobbes, the disciple and sometime secretary of Francis Bacon, recognised in politics a branch of the universal science conceived by his master; and being himself a convinced Absolutist; he endeavoured to discover a basis for Absolutism more satisfying to the reason than the theory of Divine Right. He evolved his own peculiar doctrine of the Social Contract, promulgated in the work which he called Leviathan.
Mankind being by nature in a condition of war, every man against every other man, the warring units discovered that each of them could profit more, individually, by acting in consort with others for mutual assistance. But the individual had no guarantee that his consorts would not play him false; some coercive power was required Hence men entered into a contract with each other to recognise and enforce the supreme authority of some one person or body of persons.
Here was the nucleus of the state, the whole body of persons who entered into the contract which was ipso facto binding upon all persons born under the contract. But it was not a contract between the ruler and the ruled, but between the ruled among themselves; a contract from which they could not free themselves without dissolving society altogether.
Society therefore has no rights as against the ruler; the ruler has obligations, but in respect of them he is responsible to himself and the Almighty and to no one else. But the doctrine of Thomas Hobbes, published in the early years of the Commonwealth, was by no means to the taste of the clerical royalism of the day, since it uncompromisingly subjected religion to the authority of the absolute ruler of the state.
On the other hand, the theory of the Social Contract was appropriated and modified by the Constitutionalists, and was formulated by John Locke in his Theory of Civil Government, the text-book of the Revolution Whigs. The king was bound by the contract, being himself a party to it in the primary constitution of society.
If he broke his part of the contract, the other parties to it were released from their obligation, not of recognising a supreme authority, but of continuing to regard him personally as the seat of that authority, of which the ultimate sanction was the will of the society, as a whole. The names of Hobbes and Locke, widely though they differ, stand at the head of the peculiarly English school of moral and political philosophy.
Newton But the highest distinction was reserved for the leaders of English progress in natural science, one of whom stands second to none, whether in English or in European records. The discoveries of Sir Isaac Newton in the field of physics revolutionised men's knowledge of the Univer Not Darwin himself effected so fundamental a change in the imaginative conception of an infinite creation, apart from the vast practical bearings of the new knowledge.
Perhaps the most creditable trait in the character of Charles II was his genuine interest in scientific inquiry. To Charles we owe the foundation of the Royal Society; and beside the supreme name of Isaac Newton stand those of the astronomer Flamsteed, of Boyle the father of modern chemistry, and of Ray the founder of the science of zoology.
A History of Britain
Roman | Dark Ages | Medieval | Tudor | Stuart | Georgian | Victorian
This article is excerpted from the book, 'A History of the British Nation ', by AD Innes, published in 1912 by TC & EC Jack, London. I picked up this delightful tome at a second-hand bookstore in Calgary, Canada, some years ago. Since it is now more than 70 years since Mr Innes's death in 1938, we are able to share the complete text of this book with Britain Express readers. Some of the author's views may be controversial by modern standards, particularly his attitudes towards other cultures and races, but it is worth reading as a period piece of British attitudes at the time of writing.
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British History Quiz
In 1400 this Welsh landowner's private dispute with neighbour Reginald de Grey sparked a Welsh rebellion
He proposed an independent nation and church
His fate is unknown, perpetuating his status as a Welsh symbol of national unity
This Day in British History
26 November, 1379
New College, Oxford established
New College was founded by William of Wykeham, Bishop of Winchester, who also founded Winchester College
This king was imprisoned and eventually murdered at Berkeley Castle
He was deposed by his wife, Isabella of France, and her lover, Roger Mortimer
His father was Edward I
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Literature of the first half of the 17th century focused on the events of the Time of Troubles. Those were mostly publicistic works. Thus, The New Story about Glorious Russian Kingdom and the Great Moscow State was distributed in 1610 - 1611 in Moscow. It was imbued with passionate patriotic appeal to fight against foreign invaders and condemned helpers of interventionists. Its anonymous author called “people of all ranks” for making head against the enemy. The author of another work under the title Cry for Capture and Ruin of the Glorious Moscow State (1612) grieved over the fate that befell the Fatherland.