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MonkeyNotes-Middlemarch by George Eliot
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HISTORICAL INFORMATION

Middlemarch was serialized from 1871 to 1872 in eight parts. However, the age it depicts was some forty years earlier. George Eliot has written about a provincial community with its traditional closes, values and conduct. She focuses on the life of the community in and around Middlemarch town, but she never lets us forget "the largeness of the world" outside the town.

The novelist has painstakingly researched the period in which her book is set - that is the period from some months before when the first Reform Bill of 1832 was presented in parliament by Lord Grey, to some months after this. The Bill raised the heated issue of extending the vote to the middle and working classes. The House of Lords rejected it. This and subsequent Reform Bills, up to 1867 were expressions of an on-going struggle between the old landed gentry and the newer manufacturing classes, for domination of the economy.


The Industrial Revolution, which had given birth to new classes and huge productive resources, also stimulated the development of science. One expression of this in the novel is the character Tertius Lydgate. He represents the new type of medical man, struggling to give medicine a more scientific orientation. He also wants to achieve an independent professional standing, free of patronage. George Eliot presents him against a carefully researched background of the medical controversies of the day - the separation of the doctor and the pharmacist, the treatment of alcoholics and the rigid hierarchy of doctors.

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