Transcript on Swift's A Modest Proposal - Transcript for Lecture on Jonathan Swifts A Modest Proposal Hello This is the video lecture on Jonathan Swifts

Transcript on Swift's A Modest Proposal - Transcript for...

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Transcript for Lecture on Jonathan Swift’s A Modest Proposal Hello. This is the video lecture on Jonathan Swift’s A Modest Proposal, published in 1729. Here we have an image of the original cover, with the full title of the essay: A Modest Proposal for Preventing the Children of Poor People from being a Burden to their Parents or Country, and for making them Beneficial to the Public. Next I’ll discuss some historical background. Swift’s essay is the last thing we’ll explore in the first unit of the course (early representations of cannibalism in Western literature), but it also overlaps with the second unit of the course (cannibalism in colonial and postcolonial literature). This is because Swift is writing about Ireland, which at that time was under English economic and political control. During Swift’s time, the majority of the Irish population was Catholic, and worked as tenant farmers on land owned by a wealthy minority of mostly Protestant landowners. Poverty, hunger and even starvation were widespread among the Catholic majority. These inequalities came about under the economic systems of mercantilism and capitalism in the 18 th century. Mercantilism was the idea that “government control of foreign trade is of paramount importance for ensuring the military security of the country” (Wikipedia); this “government control” was developed through control of colonies (trade with Ireland, for example, was made to benefit England rather than Ireland). Meanwhile, capitalism was on the rise - an economic and political system in which a country's trade and industry are controlled by private owners for profit (the idea of the free market). Capitalism was introducing new economic inequalities, in
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