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English Society in the Eighteenth Century, Second Edition (The Penguin Social History of Britain) Revised ed. Edition

4.5 out of 5 stars 28 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 858-0001434919
ISBN-10: 0140138196
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Editorial Reviews

Review

''Vivid, witty, and entertaining . . . Easily the best general account of eighteenth-century society that we have.'' --New York Review of Books

''A brilliant work . . . Porter's picture of eighteenth-century England is boldly drawn . . . He ranges far and wide, from princes and paupers and from the metropolis to the smallest hamlet. Stay-making and corsetry, prisons, rural festivals, diet and housing, bordellos and sex therapists…paintings and plays, work and wages, balloons and bastady are only a fraction of the topics covered by this breathtaking narrative . . . No one will fail to learn much from Porter's bustling book.'' --London Review of Books

''Offers a succession of vivid images of thought, politics, work culture, deviance, sex-life and smell of eighteenth-century Englishmen . . . It is the gusto, the vigor and the fun that make this book.'' --Sunday Times

''Covers a vast area of historical scholarship, both traditional and contemporary . . . His writing glows . . . and positively crackles when expressing the vigor and zest of what has been rightly called the age of exuberance.'' --Times Literary Supplement

''Porter bowls through eighteenth-century society with the brash confidence of the 'rubicund tradesman' whose world he recaptures so well, deploying formidable erudition, vigorous ideas and skillful expression to provide a book which should inform, arouse and provoke.'' --New Statesman

''A pioneering work.'' --Observer

A brilliant work....Porter s picture of eighteenth-century England is boldly drawn....He ranges far and wide, from princes and paupers and from the metropolis to the smallest hamlet. Stay-making and corsetry, prisons, rural festivals, diet and housing, bordellos and sex therapists...paintings and plays, work and wages, balloons and bastady are only a fraction of the topics covered by this breathtaking narrative....No one will fail to learn much from Porter s bustling book. --London Review of Books

Offers a succession of vivid images of thought, politics, work culture, deviance, sex-life and smell of eighteenth-century Englishmen....it is the gusto, the vigor and the fun that make this book. --Sunday Times
Covers a vast area of historical scholarship, both traditional and contemporary....His writing glows...and positively crackles when expressing the vigor and zest of what has been rightly called the age of exuberance. --Times Literary Supplement
Porter bowls through eighteenth-century society with the brash confidence of the rubicund tradesman whose world he recaptures so well, deploying formidable erudition, vigorous ideas and skillful expression to provide a book which should inform, arouse and provoke. --New Statesman --. --This text refers to the MP3 CD edition.

About the Author

Roy Porter was, until his retirement, Professor in the Social History of Medicine at the Wellcome Institute for the History of Medicine. He died in 2002.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; Revised ed. edition (September 4, 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140138196
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140138191
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.8 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #162,660 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I enjoyed this book so much that I look forward to reading more of Porter's books.
Some readers may find it necessary to keep a dictionary close by, but don't let this put you off if you are interested in the social history of England in the 18th century.
The author manages to balance dry statistics with extremely interesting facts, all written in a reader-friendly manner. Chapter headings such as "Power, Politics and the Law" and "Having and Enjoying" give you an idea of the wide scope of the book.
The reader will find more enjoyment in reading 18th century works (novels, biography and non-fiction) after being educated by this book.
I oftentimes read, then sell my books. This is one I will not sell. I only wish I had it in hardcover.
If "What Jane Austen Knew and Charles Dickens Ate" (sic) left you crying for some serious information about this age, I recommend this book!
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I come late to Porter, and I certainly wish I hadn't. It's almost enough to make me surrender my credentials as a dyed-in-the-wool lover of English History. The deceased physician-cum-historian was a prolific writer, turning out works on subjects as diverse as English manners and the social history of gout. But having now read two of his books, including this excellent overview of English society in the Georgian period, I realize what all the (quiet) fuss was about. Porter was simply a fabulous writer who happened to be an historian, the opposite too often not being the case. I doubt very much there is a better source in this subject for the general reader than this book. But if you buy it, by all means read it slowly and take time to savor the writing. The good news for me is that I have a lot of Porter yet to read, and I can't wait.
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By A Customer on November 1, 2000
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This is a good study of English life of the 18th century. It is written by a brit, using their slang and spellings, at the college level.
I found his comparisons of life in England to life on the European continent very interesting and informative. His slant on the individual liberties to which most Englishmen felt they were entitled was enlightening.
This is a difficult book and I found myself looking up words in the dictionary frequently, but for someone who is seriously interested in knowing what life was like in Great Britain in the 1700s, it is a good choice.
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Format: Paperback
Being a huge fan of period films, I was curious to see just what life was really like in the time of powered wigs, petticoats, and parties. This book has opened my eyes to see what it really WAS like---and I have to say, the Hollywood version is much easier to take! Still, it is a very fascinating time period to study. The author's narration is very clear and focused, and although he writes at a higher level, he is not incomprehensible. This book is well worth the read =).
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By A Customer on July 25, 2002
Format: Paperback
Interesting and thought-provoking.
As always, Roy Porter has written a wonderful book---of use to both the general reader and the specialist. The book is filled with wonderful characters, fascinating facts and, of course, Porter's insightful analysis.
Porter once commented that he met a student reading this book on a train. When he asked the student (who did not know who he was) what he thought of the book, the student replied that it was boring (Porter thought this story was hilarious). I have to wonder what planet the student was on! This is the kind of book you only wished your professors had assigned!
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The good thing about this book is, as another reviewer has put it, that its author is a "writer who happens to be an historian" rather than vice-versa. ---In other words, it has an authorial voice----Unfortunately, that's also the not so good thing about it. While we are kept turning the pages with droll quips and the like, the attentive reader won't fail to notice that these quips become repetitive. Not only that, but Porter uses the same citations to make exactly the same point in different chapters. Stylism in history writing doesn't always play so fast and loose, but it does here.

Several of the reviewers seem to have read this work as a classroom assignment, their first exposure to Eighteenth Century England beyond Hollywood (for at least one reviewer). For such, this book is probably just the ticket. Those looking for more depth and less anecdote will need to turn elsewhere.
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The great strength of this book is that it discusses everything. The great weakness of this book is it discusses everything without being able to say much about anything. As a baseline reference for Georgian life, it is a place to start, but if there are specific questions that interest the reader, further information will likely be required. That said, it is well indexed, and if a reader just needs to get a general sense about something (Clive in India for example) the book will serve well for that.
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I am still working through this book, but, the overall breadth of the subject matter (myriad facets of English society in the 18th Century) is a direct hit with many of the things that I am most interested.

The research put into the material is readily apparent and very well done. Some of the insights and theories that the author makes based on this extensive research have been very thought-provoking for me. It is also interesting to read in parallels between England in the 18th Century and the US in the 20th & early 21st Century.

I am particularly excited by the way the author illuminates every day life for both the peasants and the nobility, and I am very excited that he makes great effort to put monetary values in context to help gauge the levels of relative wealth back then (and even now).

Some of the passages that address party politics I have found confusing - partly because that is not one of my interests, and because those sections do assume rather a bit more prior knowledge of the history of the Whigs and the Tories that I have, and, at least so far, the book does not step back and do a more general review first.

Otherwise, I highly recommend this book, especially if the subject matter holds personal fascination for you.
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