Introduction (Critical Survey of Poetry: Topical Essays)
Between 1780 and 1830, British poetry took a radically new turn. This is commonly known as the Romantic Revolution. It is best to see this change as part of a much wider movement across all the arts and covering much of Western Europe and the United States, the earliest manifestations perhaps going back as far as 1740, and continuing right into the twentieth century. Generically, this very wide-embracing movement is known as Romanticism.
Between 1780 and 1830, there were parallel radical and even revolutionary movements to this cultural and artistic one, including the American and French Revolutions. There were also revolutions in agriculture, which in Britain changed the face of the landscape and the lifestyle of its inhabitants. Even more profound was the Industrial Revolution, which began in Britain, with its rapid urbanization and concomitant social problems. Industrialization was then followed by colonization throughout the nineteenth century, and a vast increase in wealth. Writers such as C. S. Lewis have claimed that this machine age was the biggest cultural shift since medieval times. The links between the Romantic Revolution and these other revolutionary developments are complex and widely debated, but lie outside the focus of this discussion.
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