Eldon faction against Canning party*
April 3, 2013 8:56 AM   Subscribe

What would be the book to read to understand the intellectual climate of the first decades of the 19th century in England?

I'd like to read a reasonably scholarly overview of the clash of the Enlightenment inheritance with the new Romantics, the influence of Whig politics in intellectual discussions (or vice versa), the different views regarding public policy in what regards education and health, the way utilitarianism affected the public intellectuals discourse, the penchant for Hellenism, intellectual fads, state of scientific thought, post-napoleonic thought regarding common people's political representation, etc.

I am not interested in any discipline in particular - but I may be overlooking something, you tell me. I was aiming at understanding the zeitgeist. I can find plenty of books on romantic literature, history of economic thought, politics, etc but let's pretend all I want is to pick up a copy of the Edinburgh Review, the Examiner or the Quarterly Review from, say, 1825 and at least know what the polemical pieces are fundamentally about, grasp the subtext of the book reviews and generally understand which current of thought does the author of the article adheres to.

(I do realize only one book might be too much to ask for but I still would prefer sort of university-pressish suggestions)

*in an Examiner issue of 1826
posted by Marauding Ennui to Society & Culture (4 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I've read several sections out of a book called Victorian Science in Context (disclaimer: a former professor of mine wrote a chapter), and I seem to remember it being good at this.

If you google, you'll find a chapter list. I don't know if it's quite what you're looking for, but it might be a good place to start.
posted by phunniemee at 9:15 AM on April 3, 2013

Rethinking the age of Reform, Britain 1780-1850 is a book of essays, rather than a synthesis, but it touches on a lot of the themes you mention and will give you a good sense of the preoccupations of the time.

This is more of a textbook and deals with the whole 19thC but should cover most of the basics.
posted by melisande at 9:21 AM on April 3, 2013

It's fiction, but there is a lot of what you're looking for in George Eliot's Middlemarch, though it begins in the year 1830.
posted by bwonder2 at 9:36 AM on April 3, 2013

Best answer: If you just want one book, make it Boyd Hilton's volume in the New Oxford History of England, A Mad, Bad, and Dangerous People? England 1783-1846 (2006). It's a general history of the period, but with a particular focus on political and intellectual history which should help you tell your Benthamites from your Anti-Jacobins. (Publisher's information here, Google Books preview here, reviews here and here.)
posted by verstegan at 3:09 PM on April 3, 2013

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