Coffee houses, rebellion, and steam engines
March 11, 2010 3:16 PM   Subscribe

In my misspent youth, I thought I would spend my life immersed in the life and work of Alexander Pope (1688 - 1744), but I wandered off to flirt with other eras and research fields. I'm sure that there's a lot of good work I've missed in the past 25 years, so I'm looking for social history recommendations from the Glorious Revolution through 1760.

I'm particularly interested in material that describes class issues, the rise of technology, urbanization, and daily life in a variety of settings. Economic history would also be good, especially if relatively accessible to the non-economist. While I am most interested in cities, anything about England & Scotland pre-1707 or the Kingdom of Great Britain would be useful.

Web, journal, or book recommendations are fine; I have access to two academic libraries and ILL if necessary.
posted by catlet to Society & Culture (10 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Apologies in advance if I'm telling you stuff you already know (seems likely, as this is not at all my field):

I suppose you know John Brewer's The Sinews of Power? This would have come out a couple of years into your 25-year hiatus and has been much cited since then (hence my having read it even though I work on a completely different field/period). Although it's political history in the sense that it's about institutions of the state, it includes a good dose of social history in the sense that it is interested in how they functioned: who manned them, how they touched society. So there's fascinating stuff about revenue officers, for example: the sort of person who became one, and their training; the insane workload, for modest pay; the many miles walked or ridden; the advanced mathematics; and also the reputation (well justified) for having a lot of illicit sex while making their rounds.

Also, Linda Colley (the first half of Britons; parts of Captives--again, surely you already know these); and if you've got access to academic libraries, there's the ONDB. Which, er, you also already know about, so let me leave the field to people who actually know what they're talking about. I'll read other people's suggestions with interest!
posted by lapsangsouchong at 4:39 PM on March 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: JA Sharpe's Early Modern England: A Social History 1550-1760 is a fine and well-written mid-length overview of the social history, primarily composed with students in minds I think and praised for addressing pretty much all the significant topics even-handedly. You'll see from his page at the U of York that he's got other works on crime and witchcraft in the same period but I've not read those.
Assume you may well already be aware of Early Modern Resources but there's the link just in case.
posted by Abiezer at 7:12 PM on March 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Things I've read recently that might fit (although some slide a little late for you):
- Samuel Johnson: The Struggle - Jeffrey Meyers
- Hubbub: Filth, Noise, and Stench in England, 1600-1770 - Emily Cockayne
- Crowded with Genius - The Scottish Enlightenment: Edinburgh's Moment of the Mind - James Buchan
- As above, Linda Colley for sure, I've been meaning to pick up her new book, The Ordeal of Elizabeth Marsh: A Woman in World History
- The Thieves' Opera - Lucy Moore

Things that are currently on my to-read list:
- 1688: The First Modern Revolution - Dr. Steve Pincus
- The Social Life of Coffee: The Emergence of the British Coffeehouse - Professor Brian Cowan
- The London Mob: Violence and Disorder in an Eighteenth-Century City - Robert Shoemaker
- The Pleasures of the Imagination: English Culture in the Eighteenth Century - John Brewer

The Hubbub book in particular is so awesome I could hardly stand it. If going into great detail about the sewage arrangements of the time and the effect civil life is your idea of fun. (It is mine.)
posted by feckless at 9:20 PM on March 11, 2010 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Wow. Y'all have no idea how happy this makes me. Thank you! I have an Amazon cart open and a tab for the Emory library catalog. AskMe is probably the only place I could have asked this question and gotten more than zero answers - I do love MetaFilter.

lapsangsouchong, the Brewer book came out after I stopped reading in this field, but it is exactly the sort of work I was hoping to be pointed to. I read Britons when it came out but am glad to be reintroduced to it.

Abiezer, thank you! I had the first edition of Sharpe, but am glad to know that it's been updated. That will be a good time-capsule approach for me to see how the field has changed. Also, I had no idea about Early Modern Resources and lost some sleep last night browsing it.

feckless, Hubbub is already on its way here! I spotted it on Amazon in "Other people ordered..." and could not resist. If you like that sort of thing, have you read The Ghost Map? Possibly post-period for you, but plumbing and cholera and squalor all in one.
posted by catlet at 7:21 AM on March 12, 2010

Best answer: This isn't a broad social history of the kind you want, but Lisa Jardine's "The Curious Life of Robert Hooke: The Man Who Measured London" has some great material on the emerging substance abuse (coffee, mercury, laxatives, marijuana, etc.) of the English virtuosi.
posted by Sam Ryan at 10:50 AM on March 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

Something else just occurred to me (because I saw it in a sale catalogue, here): Jan de Vries, Industrious Revolution: Consumer Behavior and the Household Economy, 1650 to the Present. Despite the 'to the present', it definitely focuses on the long eighteenth century. I haven't read this one, but it has also been influential. For example, CA Bayly draws on de Vries when he lays out the historical background to the long nineteenth century in his excellent Birth of the Modern World 1780-1914: global connections and comparisons, which is truly global and fascinating, but is a bit after your period.

And, er, just in case you're interested in my neck of the woods, where the coffee was coming from: for social and economic histories of the Ottoman Empire you could do a lot worse than start with Suraiya Faroqhi. (Some of these are written in English, others translated from German.)
posted by lapsangsouchong at 9:45 PM on March 12, 2010

Good call, lapsangsouchong - I must have recommended that CA Bayly book on here half a dozen times now, it truly is excellent as you say and I re-read chapters regularly. That was also where I fist became aware of de Vries' work which is packed with insights; not read the monograph you link but there's several long papers by him available online if you search.
posted by Abiezer at 11:23 PM on March 12, 2010

Best answer: You might enjoy Vic Gatrell's City of Laughter: Sex and Satire in Eighteenth-Century London (2006), though its focus is on the later eighteenth century.

Amanda Vickery's new book, Behind Closed Doors: At Home in Georgian England (2009) is very good on the details of daily life, and very imaginative in its use of archival material.

Michael Hunter's new biography of Robert Boyle (2009) will help you to get up to speed on current thinking about the scientific revolution of the late seventeenth century.

If you like Pope, you might enjoy Edmund Curll, Bookseller (2007) by Paul Baines and Pat Rogers, which explores the seamy side (was there any other side?) of eighteenth-century Grub Street.
posted by verstegan at 1:30 AM on March 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Someone finally wrote a new book about Curll? I am gobsmacked that it took this long (IIRC, the last one was done in the '20s). My focus with Pope was The Dunciad - I must get my hands on this immediately. Thanks, verstegan!

I realize I am being the sort of MeFite who gives everyone a gold star best answer, but this thread is like opening a stack of gifts. Do you know that feeling when you notice a footnote or an offhand remark that opens a whole new world of possibility and research which might obsess you for years? Yeah. That.

AskMe: Early Modern book club.
posted by catlet at 5:37 AM on March 13, 2010

Oh lord, now I'm adding thing to my to-read pile left and right. Geez.

Catlet: I have read the Ghost Map! All the squalor one could ask for.
posted by feckless at 7:30 AM on March 13, 2010

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