General In the past thirty years an enormous amount has been published on every aspect of eighteenth-century Britain which has transformed our understanding of the period. The days are long gone when ‘keeping up with the reading’ was easier for historians of the eighteenth century than for most of their colleagues, and new titles are appearing almost daily. But, despite the myriad views, nuances and rival interpretations now on offer, much of this burgeoning literature can be seen as contributing to a wide-ranging debate about the nature of the eighteenthcentury State and eighteenth-century society more generally. At heart, the controversy hinges on those perennially fascinating topics for historians, the issues of continuity and change. As Bill Speck, in a useful review article has asked, ‘will the real eighteenth century stand up?’ (‘Will the real eighteenth century stand up?’, H.J. [1991]). Was the eighteenth century distinguished more by the impulses of change and modernity, or did it represent a period of continuity with the past? Is the century and a half after 1688 better seen as a continuation of the seventeenth century, or as anticipating the nineteenth? Put simply, is the eighteenth century more reliably characterised as part of the early modern period, or as part of the modern?