Recent scholarship had emphasised the importance of a number of non-literary, economic and social debates to the understanding of Augustan Literature. Debates over the place of land, money, credit and luxury in society, as well as strands of radical thinking, are prominent throughout the period.
Originally published in 1984, this anthology of eighteenth century writings about contemporary society is divided into sections on the social order, economics, the poor and crime, with a general introduction identifying some of the dominant social discourses of the period. They reflect the emergence of an embryonic capitalist society, with its challenge to feudal ties, and of a nascent bourgeois class. This collection of writings is not intended to provide material for an empirical historical account of these changes, but to give some idea of the ideological terms in which they are perceived, endorsed or contested by contemporaries; and provide a set of discursive contexts in which the imaginative literature of the period can be read. The texts themselves repay close analysis as the bearers of complex ideological positions and it is interesting to observe how, for example, Pope accommodates Shaftesbury and Mandeville in the Moral Essays.
A fascinating anthology, Literature and the Social Order in Eighteenth-Century England, complete with editor's introduction and notes on the passages, aims to suggest lines of inquiry without offering a 'total' reading.
Introduction. 1. The Social Establishment 2. Commerce and Industry 3. The Economy and the Social Order 4. The Poor 5. Crime. Select Bibliography. Subject Index.