Classics for the People-Reader’s Guide

For an excellent long form essay about the important role that reading has played in working class Britain, please read Edith Warburton’s excellent long form essay published at Aeon.

This would be a perfect read for any educator wanting to re-kindle their passion for the historical importance of reading as a tool for reducing barriers between people. Additionally, it would be wonderful to read together with a group of your upper-level high school students to help them understand the social and cultural implications of the probing question-“What does it mean to be well-read?”

Here are some questions to discuss with your students:

  1. Why is the color of topaz an important symbol for Thomas Hardy’s character Jude?
  2. How does Edith Warburton use this symbol to introduce the theme of her essay?
  3. Why was classical education historically associated with Britain’s upper class?
  4. What does “hoi polloi” mean?
  5. What is an “autodidact?”
  6. Besides a formal university education, what were some of the ways the “working class” could access the works and ideas of the classics?
  7. Why was Pericles’ funeral speech a poignant example of the important role that classic literature had in the life of individuals from the working class?
  8. What role did modern translations have in increasing the popularity of the classic works?
  9. What role did libraries and the means of mass production have in increasing the popularity of the classic works?
  10. What was Joseph Malaby Dent’s contribution to literature?
  11. How effective were Washburton’s use of examples such as Henry Jones and Samuel Drew?
  12. Comment on Washburton’s statement: “Understanding the ancient world can enrich not only the imagination and sociocultural literacy but also citizenship skills and the power of argumentation and verbal expression.”


For a link to Thucydides: Pericles’ Funeral Oration from the University of Minnesota Human Rights Library, please click here. 

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