Year 10

Understanding 'London'

I can explain how William Blake presents power in society in 18th century London.

Year 10

Understanding 'London'

I can explain how William Blake presents power in society in 18th century London.

Lesson details

Key learning points

  1. Blake’s poem ‘London’ is a condemnation of the inequality and oppression that pervaded society in 18th century London.
  2. 'London' is taken from Blake's‘ Songs of Innocence and Experience’, which investigates how society corrupts innocence.
  3. Blake was critical of social inequality created by institutions: the Church, Government and the Monarchy.
  4. In the poem, Blake highlights the effects of the inaction of greedy and selfish leaders on the vulnerable.
  5. Blake was a radical, inspired by the French Revolution to warn about the restrictions on freedom and imagination.

Common misconception

Students often think that, because society was very religious in the 18th century, that Blake must have been a devout Christian too.

Blake was extremely opposed to mass worship and hated the fact that religion was allied with the Government - he felt this gave institutions the ability to control and oppress people.


  • Oppression - a situation in which people are ruled or governed in an unfair way

  • Authority - the power or right to give orders

  • Corrupt - immoral or dishonest

  • Industrialisation - the process of transforming an economy from one which relies on traditional farming methods, to one which relies on factories and machinery

  • Radical - someone who believes there should be extreme social and/or political change

If students are unfamiliar with certain aspects of context (like the French Revolution or the Industrial Revolution) there are some brilliant educational clips that they could watch to bring them up to speed before you continue with the lesson.
Teacher tip

Content guidance

  • Contains depictions of discriminatory behaviour.
  • Contains conflict or violence.


Adult supervision suggested.


This content is © Oak National Academy Limited (2024), licensed on Open Government Licence version 3.0 except where otherwise stated. See Oak's terms & conditions (Collection 2).


6 Questions

What century does the year 1792 belong to?
16th century
17th century
Correct answer: 18th century
What is meant by the term 'authority'?
the lack of power or right to give orders
Correct answer: the power or right to give orders
challenging those have the power or right to give orders
Which groups of people do you think would have authority from the list below?
factory workers
Correct answer: the church
Correct answer: government
Correct answer: monarchy
What is the definition of 'corrupt'?
the power or right to give orders
Correct answer: immoral or dishonest
a situation in which people are ruled or governed in a fair way
Which of the below is an example of corruption?
Correct answer: those in power giving unfair advantage to certain employees
stealing food from a shop
wealthy people not giving to charity
What was the French Revolution?
when the French monarchy resigned voluntarily
when the French monarchy had absolute power
Correct answer: when the people of France overthrew the monarchy

6 Questions

What did William Blake think about the impact of the Industrial Revolution?
He thought it was an exciting time for advancement
Correct answer: He disapproved of the impact
He was indifferent to it and was more interested in the French revolution
Starting with the first, order the events of the poem 'London' in chronological order.
1 - the speaker narrates his walk through the streets of London
2 - the speaker informs us that everybody is suffering because of their oppression
3 - the speaker condemns those in positions of authority
4 - the speaker highlights the lack of hope individuals due to disease
What problems faced the people of London as described by Blake in 'London'? - poverty, disease, inequality, the church
Correct answer: poverty
Correct answer: disease
a war
Correct answer: the church
Which verb does not accurately reflect Blake's intention in writing 'London' when used in the following sentence: 'In 'London' Blake __________ those in positions of authority.'
Correct answer: praises
Which of the following quotations from ‘London’ shows that Blake felt people in authority were ignoring the suffering of others?
“In every voice, in every ban,/ The mind-forg’d manacles I hear”
Correct answer: “...the hapless Soldier’s sigh/ Runs in blood down Palace walls.”
"I wander thro' each charter'd street,/ ...where the charter'd Thames does flow"
Complete the sentence: Blake was a and was inspired by the French Revolution
Correct Answer: radical