You are not currently logged in. Please create an account or log in to view the full course.

Dickens: A Christmas Carol

3. Context – Part II

This is the course trailer. Please create an account or log in to view this lecture.

  • Description
  • Cite

About this Lecture


In this module, we continue to look at some of the historical, cultural and literary context for A Christmas Carol, focusing in particular on: (i) the Industrial Revolution and its creation of a new (sub)class in British society – the urban poor (ii) the development of large, industrial cities in this period, particularly London and Manchester; (iii) the change in tone from Dickens’ earliest writings – Sketches by Boz (1833-36) and The Pickwick Papers (1836) – to Oliver Twist (1837-39) and Nicholas Nickleby (1838-9); (iv) the figure of Little Nell in the Old Curiosity Shop (1840-41) and Dickens’ interest in the death of children more generally; (v) Dickens’ travels to America and the publication of the travelogue, American Notes (1842); (vi) the lack of popularity of his next novel, Martin Chuzzlewit (1842-44); (vii) the invention of the ‘traditional, family Christmas’ in the Victorian period, including the renewed popularity of Christmas carols; (viii) the connection between Christmas and ghosts, and the influence of writers such as Washington Irving (1783-1859) on Dickens; (ix) capitalism and the negative effects of capitalism, including the works of Marx (Das Capital, 1867) and Engels (The Condition of the Working Class in England, 1843), which were written in and about British society; and (x) the importance of the family in A Christms Carol.


In this course, Professor John McRae (University of Nottingham) explores Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. In the first module, we introduce the novel by looking at the first two paragraphs of the story, including its famous opening line (“Marley was dead; to begin with”) and the reader’s first impression of the character of Scrooge (“Scrooge's name was good on ‘Change”). In the second and third modules, we go through some of the literary, cultural and historical context for the novel, including Dickens’ life and career up to 1843, the impact of the Industrial Revolution on British society and culture, the ‘invention’ of the ‘traditional, family Christmas’ in this period, and Dickens’ preoccupation with capitalism, poverty and children. In the following twelve modules, we read through the novel stave by stave: the fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh modules cover Stave One; the eighth and ninth cover Stave Two; the tenth, eleventh, and twelfth cover Stave Three; the thirteen and fourteenth cover Stave Four; and the fifteenth covers Stave Five.


John McRae is Special Professor of Language in Literature Studies and Teaching Associate in the School of English at Nottingham University, and holds Visiting Professorships in China, Malaysia, Spain and the USA. He is co-author of The Routledge History of Literature in English with Ron Carter, and also wrote The Language of Poetry, Literature with a Small 'l' and the first critical edition of Teleny by Oscar Wilde and others.

[Download worksheet] (PDF, 483 KB)

Cite this Lecture

APA style

McRae, J. (2020, March 24). Dickens: A Christmas Carol - Context – Part II [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

McRae, J. "Dickens: A Christmas Carol – Context – Part II." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 24 Mar 2020,