Henry Fielding's Tom Jones takes place in England in 1745. The author uses a wide range of locations as the backdrop for his stories to help further emphasize the social stratification between classes at the time. For example, the scenes which take place in the drawing rooms of grandiose London homes always make some sly commentary as to the vanity and materialism of the characters. London very much represents a shallowness the author perceives in the upper echelons of urban English society. The book also describes multiple country estates in which poor laborers are dependent on land-owning "benefactors." The author lambastes the obvious imbalance of wealth, and therefore justice, in these country estates.
Overall, the social background of England in 1745 is characterized by polarized class relations and general unrest for most of the population. Workers were discontent, and the wealthy were wallowing in their lavish delusions.
The particularly chaotic political climate of this time and place should also be noted. The royal throne was hotly contested. Parliament determined that after James II and VII went into exile into 1688, his daughter and son-in-law should rule as co-monarchs. This delegitimized the notion of a king as inheriting a divine right from God. If Parliament could make such a decision, then the role of king could not truly be a holy appointment. A political movement known as Jacobitism actively protested this and was only finally quelled in 1745—the same year Tom Jones takes place.
The 18th century is also known as the "Age of Enlightenment" because, by virtue of the Industrial Revolution, how people worked, consumed, invented, and created art was rapidly changing. Between religious disillusionment, technological advances, and the growing divide between the wealthy and the poor, England in 18th century was a turbulent time and, as Fielding shows us, provided potent material for literary satire.