In 1789 England was ripe for reform. The loss of the American colonies and the impact of the French Revolution had left middle class dissenters dreaming of a better future. Influenced by French Jacobin ideals, the printing press was used by literate radicals to fight for parliamentary reform.
The written word during this period played a crucial role in the dissemination of radical ideas. People who were discovered reading, discussing and distributing such tracts were at great risk from arrest by a government determined to prevent social upheaval.