Eighteenth-century Popular Culture: A Selection

This collection makes available what was once popular but has long been buried. During the eighteenth century, popular culture assumed a peculiar importance. In the early part of the century, high and low cultures often collided. Later in the century, politeness more and more required the distancing of genteel from vulgar amusements. This carefully annotated selection rediscovers some of the energies of the low and the vulgar in the period. It examines particular themes (crime, religious enthusiasm, popular politics, for example) by telling particular stories (the career of a notorious criminal, the exploits of a religious sect, John Wilkes and the crowd). It also illustrates how the very idea of popular culture was formed in the period, providing examples of the ways in which it was discussed both by those who were fearful of it and those who were fascinated by it.