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Literary Time Travel 1: Back to the 1700s with Lemuel Gulliver and Jonathan Swift

November 30, 2020 by Nóra Wünsch-Nagy

Classic novels are just that: classic. They are infused with a universal magic that allows them to resonate throughout the ages. But what if we could travel back in time to when the classics were written? What else could we learn about the book and author?

Let's take a journey to the 18th century into the world of Jonathan Swift and his most famous character, Lemuel Gulliver and find out more  about his famous satire on human nature, society and politics.

Gulliver's Travels Cover

Lesson specifications

  1. For this lesson you will need a laptop, a reliable Internet connection, a projector or an interactive whiteboard.
  2. You can go through the activities in 45 minutes, but of course you can spend more time visiting the websites or doing research.
  3. You can assign these activities to groups of 4-6 or pairs in your class.
  4. The groups or pairs can prepare either an online or paper-based poster, infographic or a presentation about the three topics.
  5. The lesson is recommended for students between 13 and 18.

Level: CEF A2; Cambridge KET, Trinity 3, 4 Age: 12-16 Themes: Adventure, Human interest, Travel Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift  (Level 3 reader adapted by Beverley Young and illustrated by Michele Rocchetti)

People: fashion

Step 1 Look at the illustrations on pages 19 and 60 of Gulliver's Travels .

  • What did people look like?
  • What do you notice about their hairstyle?
  • How are men's trousers different from today's trousers?

Step 2 Go to the website of the Victoria and Albert Museum and study the page Introduction to 18th-Century Fashion. Then check out the following dresses, choose one that you like and describe it.

History: Facts

Answer these questions for a general understanding of the time Gulliver's Travels (1720s) was written.

  • Who was the king of England in the 1720s?
  • What happened in England 1721?
  • What were the names of the two political parties in England in the 1720s?

Start browsing the web on this site: Timeline history for Kids

History: Travel

Read this passage from page 13 of the reader:

"I studied medicine at Cambridge University and got a job as a doctor on a ship called The Antelope. In May 1699 we left England for the South Seas. The journey went well until a violent storm sent us completely off course and we found ourselves somewhere in the East Indies."

Go to Google Maps and mark the following place: Cambridge University, the South Seas (the sea in South-East Asia), East Indies.

  • How far did Gulliver travel?
  • How long do you think the journey took in 1699?
  • How long would the same journey take today?

Why did he travel to the South Seas? Why were the East Indies important in the early 18th century?

History: British Trade

Gulliver travels as a doctor on a ship to the South Seas. Study the history of Britain to understand why people travelled there and why the area was so important.

Prepare a poster or an infographic to present the following topics: Fashion, Travel and British Trade in the early 18th century in Britain.

Go to our Readers Catalogue to find out more about the reader.

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