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The Varieties of Print Culture and its Markets (Mark Knights)

In this week’s seminar we will examine the growth of print culture and its impact on consumers. We shall begin by looking at the output and types of print over the C18th in England, and try to assess how to determine reader responses. We shall explore some of the restrictions on the press and how far these were lifted to allow a ‘free press’. We shall then take a case study of playing cards and printed political images in the first part of our period.

See Table (PDF Document)

Required Reading

The section on print culture in John Brewer, The Pleasures of the Imagination: English Culture in the Eighteenth Century (1997)


  • Where was print consumed?
  • How was print consumed?
  • How was the consumption of print regulated or constrained?
  • How were print and political/popular culture intertwined?
  • Please also look at the printed images of playing cards and trading cards - if you open this file by clicking on it you will find a set of links to follow

Further Reading

Paul Baines and Pat Rogers, Edmund Curll, Bookseller (2007)

H. Barker, Newspapers, Politics and English Society 1695-1855 (2000)

Black, J. The English Press in the Eighteenth Century. London: Croom Helm, 1987

C.J. Calhoun (ed.), Habermas and the public sphere (1992)

T. Clayton, The English Print, 1688-1802 (Yale University Press, 1997).

G.A. Cranfield, The Development of the Provincial Newspaper, 1700-1760 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1962).

R. Darnton, ‘History of Reading’, in P. Burke (ed.), New Perspectives on Historical Writing (Cambridge: Polity, 1991), pp.140-67.

J.Downie, ‘The Growth of Government tolerance of the press to 1790’ in R.Myers and M.Harris, Development of the English Book Trade (1981)

J. Feather, The Provincial Book Trade in Eighteenth Century England (Cambridge University Press, 1985).

Feather, J. “The English Book Trade and the Law 1695 – 1799.” Publishing History 12 (1982): 52 – 76

V. Gatrell, City of Laughter: Sex and satire in eighteenth century London (2006)

K. Gilmartin, Print Politics: the Press and radical opposition in early nineteenth century England (Cambridge University Press, 1996).

J. Habermas, The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere, translated by T. Burger and F. Lawrence (Cambridge: Polity, 1989), (orig. edn., 1962).

E.Hellmuth, ‘The palladium of all other English liberties: reflections on the liberty of the press in England during the 1760s and 17702’ in Hellmuth (ed), The Transformation of Political Culture (1990)

P. Keen, The crisis of literature in the 1790s: print culture and public sphere (Cambridge University Press, 1999).

P.McDowell, The women of Grub Street : press, politics, and gender in London literary marketplace, 1678-1730 (1998)

Joseph Monteyne, The Printed Image in Early Modern London (2007)

S. O’Connell, The Popular Print in England 1550-1850 (1999)

J. Raven, J.H. Small and N. Tadmor (eds.), The Practice and Representation of Reading in England. (Cambridge University Press, 1996).

I.Rivers, Books and their Readers in eighteenth-century England (Leicester University Press, 1982)

K. Sharpe, Reading revolutions: the politics of reading in early England (Yale University Press, 2000).

N. Tadmor, The Practice and Representation of Reading in England (Cambridge University Press, 1996).

M. Treadwell, ‘London Trade Publishers 1675 – 1750’, The Library, 6th ser., 4 (1982), pp.99-134.

Sample essay questions (see also seminar questions):

What was the cultural impact of increased consumption of print?

How, in the world of print, did topicality and the market intertwine?