The Age of Reason to the Romantic Dawn
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The eighteenth century saw unprecedented growth of literature and the arts in Europe and America. Britain during this time period also enjoyed prolonged periods of civil peace that stood in sharp contrast to the bloody and protracted civil and international conflicts that lasted throughout the 17th century. Furthermore, as the rising middle classes increasingly sought both education and leisure entertainment, the marketplace for artistic production swelled dramatically. One of the most critical elements of the 18th century was the increasing availability of printed material, both for readers and authors. The period was markedly more generally educated than the centuries before. Education was less confined to the upper classes than it had been in centuries, and consequently contributions to science, philosophy, economics, and literature came from all parts of the newly United Kingdom. It was the first time when literacy and a library were all that stood between a person and education.
The first half of the century has often been aptly described as the Age of Reason, the Augustan Age and the Neo-classical Age. The very description of this period as Augustan throws light on the prosperity and growth of this period, drawing a direct parallel to the affluent era of Latin literature during the reign of Augustus and in the process, claiming a similar Golden Age of English literature and arts. It was an “age