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Angus Calder examines some of the ways in which foreign visitors and thinkers visiting England in the second quarter of the eighteenth century responded to our institutions and culture. He begins w...ith Voltaire's arrival at Greenwich on the outskirts of London in 1726. Voltaire found himself among people who lived in 'freedom and in the midst of plenty' and retained to the end of his long life an admiration for English freedom of speech, and English liberty. The programme includes sequences at the Royal Naval College at Greenwich (then a naval hospital for pensioners) designed by Sir Christopher Wren, and at Flamsteed House, the old Royal Observatory. Angus Calder examines the influence of British science, naval power, commercial activity, agriculture, the peerage, class relations, politics, theatre, music, sculpture, and art, through the words of Voltaire, Montesquieu, Pehr Kalm, Prevost, and de Saussure. He concludes, that there was a new spirit of realism in art and fiction which was a powerful new tool for the understanding of human nature.
Metadata describing this Open University video programme
Module code and title: A204, The Enlightenment
Item code: A204; 01
First transmission date: 21-02-1980
Published: 1980
Rights Statement:
Restrictions on use:
Duration: 00:24:28
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Producer: Paul Kafna
Contributors: Sean Barrett; Angus Calder
Publisher: BBC Open University
Keyword(s): 18th Century England; Greenwich; Voltaire
Footage description: The programme opens with Scott's painting of Cuckold's Point over which an extract from Handel's Water Music is played. Views of Westminster, Greenwich and the City of London by Canaletto over which Barrett reads Voltaire's description of his arrival at Greenwich in 1726. He expresses admiration for the wealth and freedom of England. From outside the Royal Naval College at Greenwich Angus Calder, OU staff tutor for Scotland, explains why Voltaire came to England. Over numerous shots of the College, Calder comments on the style and function of these buildings. Over a portrait of Voltaire Calder assesses the importance of the Frenchman's visit to England. Views of Covent Garden by Collet and Nebot. From the Royal Observatory Calder outlines the practical achievements of 17th century English science. Shots of the Greenwich meridian and of the Observatory's Octagon Room. Portraits of Bacon, Newton, Descartes and Locke over which Calder contrasts official treatment of French intellectuals with the position of their English counterparts. Quotes by Voltaire praising Newton and Locke are read. 18th century prints illustrate English trading activities. Calder describes the growth of English overseas trade in the early l8th century. Portrait of Montesquieu, whose attribution of English political freedom to commercial success is quoted. Calder next examines the patriotic symbolism of the Great Painted Hall at the Royal Naval Hospital. Riule Britannia is sung over a variety of nauticalpaintings. Over an 18th century map of Europe Calder contrasts English prosperity with Continental poverty. A variety of prints depict everyday English scenes over which The Roast Beef of Old England is sung. McClelland reads Pehr Kalra's comments on the consumption of beef in England. Gainsborough's painting of Mr and Mrs Andrews is shown. In voice-over Calder describes the English aristocracy's interest in business. Voltaire's and Abbe Prevost's comments on social mobility and freedom of speech in England are quoted. An old print depicts a coffee house. Portraits of Walpole and Hogarth's portrayals of elections are shown. In voice over Calder describes early 18th century political corruption. Montesquiieu is quoted as saying that despite electoral corruption the English are more free that the French. An extract from The Beggar's Opera is heard and some of Hogarth prints are shown as examples of political satire. Voltaire's comments on the popularity of Pope are quoted over a portrait of the poet. Shot of the statue of Handel in Westminster Abbey over which Calder describes the success of foreign as well as English artists in London. An extract from The Water Music is played over a print of Vauxhall Gardens. Over sculptures of Handel and Pope Calder comments on the rise of both realism and classicism in 18th century english art and literature. Views of the Temple of British Worthies at Stowe. An extract from Beethoven's setting of God Save the King is played over busts of Milton, Bacon, Locke,Newton and William III. Hogarth's work O, The Roast Beef of Old England is seen and discussed. Calder ends by asserting that the new realism of the English arts was an important intellectual and artistic breakthrough. Still of Mr and Mrs Andrews.
Production number: FOUA044Y
Videofinder number: 1896
Available to public: no