Section One: Historical Context for Frankenstein
This section offers a look back at the social and political environment that sparked Mary Shelley’s infamous monster. Frankenstein is situated within the Gothic and Romantic literary traditions, which enjoyed an increase in popularity in Britain during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. During Shelley’s lifetime, new scientific discoveries were widespread. The creation of the steam engine and increased automation in manufacturing revolutionized industry, and scientists such as Erasmus Darwin (grandfather of Charles), Humphry Davy (a chemist who discovered several elements), and others brought the spirit of inquiry and invention to the forefront of the public imagination.
Explore these concepts and more in our interactive PDF on Section One.
LEFT: Valentine Green (1739–1813), A Philosopher Shewing an Experiment on the Air Pump, London: J. Boydell, 1769, © National Gallery, London / Art Resource, NY. RIGHT: Auguste Pontenier (1820–1888), wood engraving in Louis Figuier (1819–1894), Les merveilles de la science, ou Description populaire des inventions modernes, Paris: Furne, Jouvet et cie., 1867–70. The Morgan Library & Museum, purchased on the Gordon N. Ray Fund, 2016, PML 196256.