How is the study of social history along with history of English literature essential part of reading texts?

The study of social history along with history of English literature is essential part of reading texts. This is a step in right direction, for literature is closely associated with the general activities of men in a particular age. Literature has social origins, in the folk-song, folk-ballad, folk- dance, folk-stories. It is the result of self-expression on the solid foundations of social life. Every great writer is the product of his age and in his turn moulds his age.

In this matter ESL students suffer from a peculiar disadvantage. The study of a foreign literature is difficult enough: the ignorance of social conditions add to the difficulty. Consequently students are led to cram things mechanically, without grasping why a writer like Shelly dreams of social reconstruction, or a writer like Shaw shatters Victorian ideals and established institutions. The study of social history will give them a clearer perspective of English life, which will enable them to study their authors with greater understanding and perception.

 An ESL student is bound to fall back upon the social historians of England in order to build up his picture. The ESL student should acknowledge  his obligation to the standard writers on the subject. All that he should claim  is that he has tried to give his study the very best he could lay hands upon, in a concise and connected manner through reading texts. His class notes are not intended to supplant any standard work on social history; it should be meant to inspire him to read standard works.

Spanish Armada
There is another key basics of study in references. The references at the end of any social history books on English studies obviously give the author’s indebtedness to various English and French writers whose matter has either gone into the book or in cross studies. There might be others whose words have become a part of the students' mental make-up during his course of study and teaching of English literature. He acknowledges his gratitude to those authors also whose names could not be mentioned.

In the preparation of the study of social history we can lean heavily on Carter and Myers’ History of Britain, G. M. Freeland’s English Social History, S. E. Swain’s History of Western Civilization, W. B. Reader’s Life in Victorian England, David Daiches’ Literature and Society, and above all, Will Durant’s monumental work The Story of Civilization. Old social historians like Greene, Traill and Jusserand have contributed in the form of notes which ESL students can take from his professors’ lectures when he is a student at University. The study of social history will inspire the students to go to the Library and read the works of eminent social historians to have a better grasp of this fascinating subject. 

Now let’s frame a class schedules for the study of social history:

Sub Topic
The Growth of the Parliament; Feudalism and the Manor; The Black Death and the Break-up of the Feudal Manor; The Peasants’ Revolt; Country Houses, Food, Dress, etc.; The World of Chivalry; Chaucer’s London; The Rise of Capitalism; The Church and Reform in the Church
Landlord and Tenant; The Piston Letters; Manor House and Nunneries; Education; William Caxton; London and the Merchants
Renaissance and Reformation
The Crusades; The Fall of Constantinople; Travel and Discoveries; The Renaissance—in Art and Music—in Literature—in Science; Achievements; The Reformation — in Germany — in England; Counter Reformation; Effects of the Reformation.
Traders and Seamen; The Puritans; The Queen and Her Court; Agriculture and industry; London; Houses and Homes; Dress and Fashions; Country Life; Social Relationships— Law and Law Courts; Education; Superstitions; Travelers’ Tales; Books and Authors; The Theatre; Elizabethan Drama.
The Beginning of Colonial Expansion; The Upper Class: The Middle and Lower Classes in Villages; The Towns; Religious Conflicts; The Puritans—and the. Theatre, and Humanism, and Literature.
The Glorious Revolution; Commerce and Industry; London; Morals; Manners; Philosophy and Science; Literature.
The Seven Years War and William Pitt; The Loss of America; The Change to Industrial England; The Industrial Revolution; Roads and Canals; The New Towns; Capital and Labour; The Methodist Revival; The Arts and the World of Fashion; -The New Middle Class and Literature; The Augustan Age
The Revolution; The Great French War; The Machine Age; Effect of the Revolution on England; Changing Patterns of Life; Women; William Cobbett; The First Reform Act; The Age of Romanticism
An Era of Reform; Free Trade; Socialism and Chartism; The Second and the Third Reform Acts; The Education Act, 1870;The Triumphs of Science and Industry; The Gentry; Farmers and the Farm Labourers; The Growth of Towns; Town Life—the Poor; The Comfortable Working Class; The Formation of the Middle Class; The Evangelical Christianity; The Victorian Social Order; The Theory of Evolution
The Education Act, 1902; The Labor Problem, The Liberal Reformers (1906- I4); Home Rule Bill; The Pre-War Crises
Post world war
Rise of Socialism; The First Great War and Its Effects; Problem of Depression and Unemployment (1929-1935); The Development of Mass Media, Broadcasting, Newspapers, the Cinema and Television; The Social and Intellectual Life up to 1945; England after 1945.


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