William Blake Socio-Historical Context

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  • Socio-Historical Context
    • Religion
      • Blake's family were Dissenters who taught him to question authority but  believe in God and the Bible.
      • had a hatred of organised religion in all its forms and was deeply suspicious and critical of the Church and its administration
      • He despised the hypocrisy of those who used religion as a form of control while doing little in the way of Christian charity to help the less fortunate.
    • The Age of Reason
      • The first three quarters of the eighteenth century is often called the Age of Enlightenment or the Age of Reason, in reference to the cultural preoccupation with reason, logic, science and intellect – emphasis on the brain, observation and external truths as opposed to the heart, intuition and internal truth based on feelings.
    • The Industrial Revolution
      • Production of goods was increased rapidly, but conditions for the workers were largely abysmal.
      • agricultural reforms decimated entire rural communities
        • poor housing conditions, and factory owners demanded work for long hours and paid minimal wages
      • some factories favoured women and children for their workforce as they felt justified in paying them even less than the men
    • The French Revolution
      • coincide with the period in which Blake was composing the poems that would become Songs of Innocence and of Experience in 1794.
      • he admired rebellion against authority but abhorred violence – but he felt that the aims and intentions of the revolution were being subverted horribly.
    • Writers and Philosophers
      • Emanuel Swedenborg and Jacob Boehme wrote treatises on Christianity that were accepted by Dissenters but condemned by mainstream Christians as being heretical
    • Slavery and Abolition
      • Blake contributed to the growing canon of abolitionist literature through the graphic illustrations he provided for the published work of John Gabriel Stedman
    • Romanticism
      • Blake’s condemnation of strict scientific rationalism would have naturally aligned him more with the Romantics


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