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date: 26 January 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This article reviews some of the historic evidence on the evolution of British society, as changes in its structure impacted on the rise of the novel. It considers: (1) Demographic issues, including the size and age composition of the population, factors affecting the mortality rate, the growth in urbanism, and the professions; (2) The economic make-up of society and ways in which the class system operated through the ownership of land and the occupational spread of British people; (3) Issues of gender, as affected by rank, with the limitations and the changing possibilities for women in this era; (4) Writers and readers of the early novel, touching on the growth of literacy, the shifting dynamics of the reading public, the development of the book trade, and the opportunities for professional authors thrown up as patronage declined by new forms of distribution and delivery such as the circulating library.

Keywords: social structure, urbanism, demography, class, gender, reading public, book trade, literacy

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