What was the Long 18th Century anyway?


Politicians kissing the Prime Minister Walpole’s bottom

Certain periods of history are extremely popular and much-studied, such as the Tudors or Nazi Germany.  As part of my masters course I had to teach myself about  a period of history that I was less familiar with, so I chose political history during the period known as the long 18th century.  You may (or may not) be wondering why it is called the long 18th century, now the traditional explanation is that it a more homogeneous historical period than the simple use of the standard century definition.  Historians expand the century, typically running from the Glorious Revolution of 1688 to the battle of Waterloo in 1815.  My own theory however as to why it is the Long 18th Century  is that maybe it is because it  seems extremely tedious when studying it.   This is a seriously complicated topic which might explain why nobody learns much about it at school anymore, but after lots of headaches I have found the best books on this topic.

gorman 18My recommendation is Frank O’Gorman’s  The Long 18th Century and  Paul Langford’s The 18th century, as many other books on the topic are seriously dated.  O’Gorman is very readable, whereas Langford is short!  Despite the extremely complex political history I have enjoyed learning more on facts on the Glorious Revolution, the Jacobites, Walpole, Pitt and Fox.

 To really enjoy studying this period is to study the political cartoons of this period, especially the extremely clever cartoons of James Gillray about whom a fellow student and I wrote an article for  the Historical Association’s Cunning Plan.  For social satire on the period  Hogarth’s cartoons are also excellent.  So start with these and it might get you inspired.

Gillray's interpretation of the supporters of the French Revolution, the asns-culottes

Gillray’s interpretation of the supporters of the French Revolution, the sans-culottes



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3 responses to “What was the Long 18th Century anyway?

  1. Anonymous

    Thanks, Kerry. I think this is definitely a neglected period but a fascinating one and I would like to read more about it so thus is a great time-saving recommendation. I agree about the cartoons – they are great, aren’t they? I do appreciate a nice lack of deference to politicians.

  2. Carol Jepson

    Oops – don’t know why I became anonymous on that previous post!

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