A Revolution of Feeling

The Decade that Forged the Modern Mind

Rachel Hewitt

Published: 5 October 2017
Hardback, Royal HB
156x234mm, 560 pages
ISBN: 9781847085733

Other Editions

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Published: 5 October 2017
ISBN: 9781847085757


In the 1790s, Britain underwent what the politician Edmund Burke called 'the most important of all revolutions...a revolution in sentiments'. Inspired by the French Revolution, British radicals concocted new political worlds to enshrine healthier, more productive, human emotions and relationships. The Enlightenment's wildest hopes crested in the utopian projects of such optimists - including the young poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge, the philosophers William Godwin and Mary Wollstonecraft, the physician Thomas Beddoes and the first photographer Thomas Wedgwood - who sought to reform sex, education, commerce, politics and medicine by freeing desire from repressive constraints.

But by the middle of the decade, the wind had changed. The French Revolution descended into bloody Terror and the British government quashed radical political activities. In the space of one decade, feverish optimism gave way to bleak disappointment, and changed the way we think about human need and longing.

A Revolution of Feeling is a vivid and absorbing account of the dramatic end of the Enlightenment, the beginning of an emotional landscape preoccupied by guilt, sin, failure, resignation and repression, and the origins of our contemporary approach to feeling and desire. Above all, it is the story of the human cost of political change, of men and women consigned to the 'wrong side of history'. But although their revolutionary proposals collapsed, that failure resulted in its own cultural revolution - a revolution of feeling - the aftershocks of which are felt to the present day.

About the author

Image of Rachel Hewitt

Rachel Hewitt completed her doctoral thesis at the university of London in 2008, and is currently a Research Fellow at Queen Mary, University of London and Westfield. She is the author of Map of a Nation: A Biography of the Ordnance Survey (Granta Books) which won the Royal Society of Literature Jerwood Award for Non-Fiction, awarded to authors engaged on their first major commissioned works of non-fiction. More about the author

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