There’s something about the 18th century that makes history aficionados swoon with delight.
It was a time of progress, of rebuilding a new city, of science and art flourishing, and of elegance and grandeur. But at the same time, the greatness that was becoming of the city was accompanied by a despicable squalor, despair, and cruelty.
Its rich and interesting stories of progress and destruction make it a riveting topic for study.
For all history enthusiasts, or those who simply want to know more about 18th century London, we’ve listed down the top ten books you should get a copy of. This unconventional list will give you a closer look of what 18th Century London is all about.
London in the 18th Century: a Great and Monstrous Thing by Jerry White
This is probably one of the most recommended books on the 18th century London because of its extensive coverage of the era. It illustrates the turbulence of the city through its two faces--that of rapid progress and expansion, and of sordid poverty. As a matter of fact, Daniel Defoe had described London as “a great and monstrous thing.”
In this book, Jerry White traces the roots of 18th century London from the beginning of its recovery from the Great Fire of 1666, and walks the readers through the streets of the city, enabling them to see how daily life was back then through the lives of ordinary people including architects, journalists, prostitutes, reformers and revolutionaries.
Craze: Gin and Debauchery in an Age of Reason by Jessica Warner
The first half of the 18th century saw the rage for the consumption of gin among London’s working poor.
When it was made available in 1720, the gin became the go-to alcoholic beverage for many, as it was affordable and stronger than other similar drinks. In fact, the uncontrollable obsession with “Mother’s Geneva,” as it was called, was considered as an equivalent to modern day cocaine epidemic.
The city and its people suffered from extreme drunkenness, which triggered great public concern, moral outrage, and legislative backlash. Jessica Warner’s book draws on the gin craze to examine how it has impacted the city and its views on public morality, pleasure, and consumption.
The Journals of James Boswell
Reading James Boswell’s journal entries which were written over a span of thirty-three years, is like reading first hand accounts of 18th century British living.
Although it focuses mainly on alcohol and worldly affairs, Boswell’s diary reveals so much about him as a bachelor, clubman, and aspiring politician. His journals also narrated his encounters with celebrities such as Voltaire and Jean-Jacques Rousseau.
The Press Gang by Nicholas Rogers
Nicholas Rogers presents to the readers a well-researched, exhaustive, and recommended book on impressment.
He discusses the press gang, and its process of recruiting sailors for the Royal Navy or military with the use of force. Impressment gained an ill repute for the forcible recruitment, subjecting impressed boys and men between ages 18-55 to harsh working conditions, just to beef up the British naval forces.
The Tyranny of Treatment: Samuel Johnson, his friends, and Georgian medicine edited by Natasha McEnroe and Robin Simon
Highlighting the state of the medical field in the 18th century, “The Tyranny of Treatment” presents the medical histories of Samuel Johnson and his friends, including James Boswell and Fanny Burney.
Coram's Children by Ruth McClure
Ruth McClure writes about what she calls the pioneer case of “incorporated associative benevolence” as she narrates the founding of Thomas Coram’s Foundling Hospital, which received and welcomed its first infant in 1741.
Coram’s hospital was run as a private enterprise, headed by a board of governors that included wealthy, commercial people, without any administration from the state or the Church. McClure narrates everything in details, illustrating the hospital’s humane treatment of the children that it was considered as better treatment than that of more privileged ones.
A Vindication of the Rights of Woman by Mary Wollstonecraft
Mary Wollstonecraft comes in the defense of the woman in her own feminist philosophical work “A Vindication of the Rights of a Woman.”
Written as a response to Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord's 1791 report to the French National Assembly, Wollstonecraft argues against the statement that women should only have domestic education.
Wollstonecraft asserts that women should also be given access to education at a level appropriate to her societal position, and that they be viewed as human beings that should be accorded the same fundamental rights as the males.
Common Sense: The Rights of Man, and Other Essential Writings of Thomas Paine
The Revolutionary War of the United States is significant in relation to the history of eighteenth century London. It is in this war that the United States, along with other North American colonies, rallied for their independence from Britain.
Thomas Paine’s pamphlet Common Sense contained moral and political arguments that resonated among the common people in the Thirteen Colonies, which prompted them to demand their freedom from Britain.
Tom Jones by Henry Fielding
This book walks you through the London adventures of Tom Jones, a baby found by wealthy Squire Allworthy in his bed. He was sent away after his affair with a local town girl who is also the apple of the eye of Allworthy’s nephew, Blifil. Highly entertaining, it is full of comic fun that reminds everyone how lively and colorful the 18th century is before the 19th century rolled in.
Wedlock: How Georgian Britain's Worst Husband Met His Match by Wendy Moore
Moore recounts in Wedlock the brutal marriage of Mary Eleanor Bowes, one of Britain’s countess, to an abusive husband. Her story serves to examine the property law, marital rights, and social behaviours during the period of Georgian London as it discusses violence, deception, and abduction in its narrative.
Laura Buckler works at Scholaradvisor dissertation service and also she is a big fan of reading books.