Skip to Content
Men and the emergence of polite society: Britain, 1660-1800

Men and the emergence of polite society: Britain, 1660-1800

Carter, Philip

This is an account of the changing status of men and masculinity in eighteenth century England. It explores the revolution which took place in Britain when a new kind of social behaviour became established, reflecting a more tolerant nation

Paperback, Hardback, Book. English.
Published Harlow: Longman, 2001
Rate this

Available: Newton Park

  • Newton Park – Three available in Main Collection 942.06/CAR

    Barcode Shelfmark Loan type Status
    00293507 Main Collection 942.06/CAR Standard Available
    00293513 Main Collection 942.06/CAR Standard Available
    00217247 Main Collection 942.06/CAR Standard Available


Statement of responsibility: Philip Carter
ISBN: 0582319862, 0582319870, 9780582319868, 9780582319875
Intended audience: Specialized.
Note: Includes bibliographical references and index.
Physical Description: viii, 232p. : ill., facsim. ; 24 cm.
Series: Women and men in history
Subject: Masculinity Great Britain History.; Great Britain; Etiquette Great Britain History.; Great Britain Social life and customs 18th century.; 17Th Century; 18Th Century; Europe; Men; Great Britain Social life and customs 17th century.



General Editors: Patricia Skinner, Pamela Sharpe & Penny Summerfield

This book presents an account of masculinity in eighteenth century Britain. In particular it is concerned with the impact of an emergent polite society on notions of manliness and the gentleman.

From the 1660s a new type of social behaviour, politeness, was promoted by diverse writers. Based on continental ideas of refinement, it stressed the merits of genuine and generous sociability as befitted a progressive and tolerant nation. Early eighteenth century writers encouraged men to acquire the characteristics of politeness by becoming urbane town gentlemen. Later commentators promoted an alternative culture of sensibility typified by the man of feeling. Central to both was the need to spend more time with women, now seen as key agents of refinement. The relationship demanded a reworking of what it meant to be manly.

Being manly and polite was a difficult balancing act. Refined manliness presented new problems for eighteenth century men. What was the relationship between politeness and duplicity? Were feminine actions such as tears and physical delicacy acceptable or not? Critics believed polite society led to effeminacy, not manliness, and condemned this failure of male identity with reference to the fop.

This book reveals the significance of social over sexual conduct for eighteenth century definitions of masculinity. It shows how features traditionally associated with nineteenth century models were well established in the earlier figure of the polite town-dweller or sentimental man of feeling.

Using personal stories and diverse public statements drawn from conduct books, magazines, sermons and novels, this is a vivid account of the changing status of men and masculinity as Britain moved into the modern period.

Philip Carter is Research Editor on the New Dictionary of National Biography and Junior Research Fellow at Wolfson College, Oxford.


"concise and well-written" Times Literary Supplement"an exemplary approach to the workings of gender in eighteenth-century society" The British Journal of Eighteenth Century Studies "Carter who breaks new ground, with a show of formidably constructed analysis and reasoned argument" History Today, May 2002