Eighteenth Century Drama

Censorship, Society and The Stage

Delve into the theatrical world of eighteenth-century society and explore how the plays reflect the politics of the time, the role of women, views on race and religion, opinions on empire, and European and British history.

Explore the Larpent Collection from the Huntington Library – a unique archive of almost every play submitted for licence between 1737 and 1824. Larpent preserved the original submissions, over 2,500 of which are presented here.

Also included are the diaries of Larpent’s wife and professional collaborator Anna, recording her criticisms of plays, as well as insights into theatrical culture and English society. Hundreds of further documents including playbills, theatre records and correspondence provide social context.

This truly interdisciplinary resource is rich in the breadth and scope of eighteenth-century material available and will appeal to researchers working on not only theatre and drama, but literature, history, politics, music, censorship, gender and Romanticism.


  • The Larpent Collection digitised in its entirety, with over 2,500 plays, epilogues, prologues, addresses and songs submitted for licence between 1737 and 1824
  • Anna Larpent’s diaries, providing unique insight into theatrical society, the process of censorship and contemporary theatre criticism
  • Two essential reference works for theatre history: The London Stage 1660-1800 and A Biographical Dictionary of Actors, Actresses, Musicians, Dancers, Managers &  Other Stage Personnel in London, 1660-1800 available for the first time in a searchable database
  • Plays rejected by the examiner, or heavily censored – often in manuscript and unavailable elsewhere
  • Papers and correspondence of well-known theatrical figures such as David Garrick, Edmund Kean, the Kemble family, Sarah Siddons and many more.

Key data

Period covered

Mid 17th to early 19th century

Source archives

  • British Library
  • Garrick Club Library
  • Georgian Theatre Royal, Richmond
  • Huntington Library
  • University of London
  • Victoria and Albert Museum
  • Modes of performance: Costume, scenography and spectacle
  • Celebrity culture and fashion
  • Censorship and politics
  • Opera
  • Business and finance
  • Conflict and empire
  • Royalty and aristocracy
  • Race and religion
  • Myths, legends, folk tales and fairy tales
  • Courtship, family and domestic life
  • Women in eighteenth century drama
  • Greco-Roman society
  • British gothic and medieval history
  • European past
  • Theatrical addresses
  • Artwork
  • Biographical documents
  • Correspondence
  • Diaries
  • Epilogues
  • Financial and Legal documents
  • Notes
  • Miscellany
  • Objects
  • Plays
  • Playbills
  • Prologues
  • Scrapbooks
  • Songs
  • Illustrations
  • Portraits
  • Posters
  • Roberto Alvarez, Independent Researcher
  • Ros Ballaster, Mansfield College, Oxford University
  • Michael Burden, New College, Oxford University
  • Sue Hodson, Curator of Literary Mss, Huntington Library
  • Robert D Hume, Pennsylvania State University
  • Robert Jones, University of Leeds
  • Matthew Kinservik, University of Delaware
  • Elaine McGirr, Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Felicity Nussbaum, University of California, Los Angeles
  • David O’Shaughnessy, Trinity College, Dublin
  • David Worrall, Nottingham Trent University
  • Cultural Studies
  • Great Britain, Republic of Ireland and Northern Irish Studies
  • Literature
  • Music, Sound and Dance
  • Sociology, Social History and Social Science
  • Theatre
  • Data visualisations aid research and teaching
  • Extensive and linked metadata that makes searching laterally through the material is simple and convenient
  • Anna Larpent’s diaries are now easily accessible and navigable with metadata created by our editorial board
  • 'The London Stage 1660-1800' and 'A Biographical Dictionary of Actors, Actresses, Musicians, Dancers, Managers and Other Stage Personnel in London, 1660-1800' feature as both scans in their original printed format, as a searchable database and are also available in our data visualisation
  • Contextual essays
  • Chronology
  • Visual galleries


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