• Essays on Long Eighteenth-Century Overviews by Penelope J. Corfield

3.1 Long Eighteenth-Century Overviews

3.1.1 The Exploding Galaxy: Historical Studies of Eighteenth-Century Britain (2011), Pdf24
This overview essay, first published in 2011, explores the exploding galaxy of recent publications relating to British history in the long eighteenth century. It was clearly impossible to itemise all 20,000+ books and essays on Georgian Britain published in the 2000s, but major themes are highlighted, revealing the field’s continuing thematic diversification, methodological innovation, and intense intellectual energy.

3.1.2 Britain’s Political, Cultural and Industrial revolutions as Seen by Eighteenth-Century Observers and Later Historians (2013), Pdf31
This essay explores the many applications of the term ‘Revolution’ to Britain by eighteenth-century observers and compares their verdicts with those of later historians. Many changes, both large and small, were detected by contemporaries. Yet defining them all as ‘revolutions’ risks confusion between great political/social upheavals on the one hand, and long-term macro-transformations in social, cultural and economic life on the other. Hence historians need a better, subtler and more variegated vocabulary of change. The analytical options cannot just be left to choose between ‘revolution’ on the one hand and ‘no-change’ on the other. This essay began as a Conference paper and then was expanded, by invitation, for web-publication in the Danish research journal Literature, Culture & Media (Syddansk University, Odense, Denmark, 2013): ISSN 1903 5705.

3.1.3 Eighteenth-Century Britain’s Experimental Enlightenment (2024), Pdf71
Eighteenth-century Britons certainly shared in the European ferment of ideas that became known as the Enlightenment. This short essay confirms that numerous British thinkers were familiar with the rhetoric of ‘light’ and ‘advancement’. It also shows that the discussions in Britain were associated not only with a high esteem for ‘science’ but also for its practical application in technological innovations. And the prevalent cultural attitude became one of ‘trial and error’. Britain’s characteristically empirical and experimental approach did indeed sometimes help to perpetrate error – but it also provides scope for review and instant reform, once serious error is identified.