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Eighteenth-Century Studies 35.4 (2002) 644-654
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Fundamental Reference Books
Cambridge University and Lawrence Technical University
Jeremy Gregory and John Stevenson. The Longman Companion to Britain in the Eighteenth Century, 1688-1820 (London and New York: Longman, 2000). Pp. ix + 571. $36.80 Paper.
Jeremy Black and Roy Porter, eds. The Penguin Dictionary of Eighteenth-Century History (London: Penguin, 1996). Pp. xvii +880. 10 maps. $17.95 Paper.
Iain McCalman, General Editor. An Oxford Companion to The Romantic Age: British Culture 1776-1832 (New York: Oxford University Press, 2001). Pp. xiii + 780. $29.95 Paper. [End Page 644]
These are the books you will have at the ready in the spaces between your printer and computer. Want to know when the bolero was "invented"? Can't move ahead until you determine finally the date of that treaty with the Duke of Wolfenbüttel? Skipping meals in the search for "potwalloper"? Have a seat.
Jeremy Gregory and John Stevenson's The Longman Companion to Britain in the Eighteenth Century, 1688-1820 is a "companion" (the authors' intellectual map of the era) and an alphabetical biography/directory. Gregory and Stevenson focus on political and social topics. The delight of these two authors is local and national government—titles, duties, operations—and social history. Two key emphases of the authors: full coverage of Wales, Ireland, and Scotland, and diminution of the century marks as historical validities. 1688-1832 is seriously upheld. The first two sections, "Political Chronologies" and "The Monarch," are crowded with full dates and details of the leading events of each year, plus succinct summaries, e.g., the Declaration of Rights of 1689, the Act of Settlement of 1701. Biographical details of each monarch are presented, including the full birth and death dates for all of George III's fifteen children. Section three, "Ministries and Office-Holders," lists all administrations, e.g., Pelham's administrations of 1744 and 1746, and then, "Composition of Administrations," which gives the full list of members of each administration, followed, in "Major Office-Holders," with another rendition of the details arranged by office, e.g., First Lord of the Admiralty. Section Four is a solid presentation of the data of "Parliament, Elections and Parliamentary Reform." Speakers, election dates, and constituencies are made more valuable by a great discussion of the composition and work of the house. In the next section, "Elections and Election Results, 1689-1818" are summarized, even though they are "fraught with difficulty." This is followed by "Parliamentary Reform," which includes helpful summaries of major reform societies and clubs. Especially notable are the lists of data and discussions of election activities at the county and borough level. The Irish Parliament is treated similarly. The fifth section, "Foreign Affairs and Empire," has less explanation attached to the data than the earlier sections, but surveying the details brings attention, for example, to the multitude of treaties signed with the Netherlands in the early 1700s. In the sub-sections, "Ireland 1688-1823," and "British Colonial Expansion 1688-1760," one misses full dates. Section six, "Military and Naval," contains very full dates and a who's who along with a summary of events. The section opens with Outlines of British Campaigns, including a summary of major campaigns during the War of American Independence. Two sub-chapters on the strength and cost of the army and navy are helpful. Changes in size of the British Army tell much about the modern world: thirty thousand in 1775; three-hundred thousand in 1794. "Law and Order," section seven, gives data arrangements and explanations for the topics, public order, popular disturbances, and criminal statistics. More complete dates might have been given for many of the popular disturbances, for example, theater riots. The well-noted decline in actual executions versus convictions is shown: from 64% in 1741-50, to 7% in 1811-20. Nevertheless, forgery of wills was still a capital offense in 1832. Section eight, "Religion," presents lists of Bishops as well as societies and movements, and includes Scotland, Ireland, Wales, plus sub-chapters on Protestant Dissenters, the Methodist Movement, and Roman Catholicism...