As its title indicates, this book tries to do two things: to sketch the ways in which poetry since 1900 has engaged with historical events and to construct a narrative of the century through the poetry it has produced. Yet, to regard poetry as distinct from history has to an extent become an inevitable 'habit of reading' in critical practice. Terry Eagleton observes that 'poetry is of all literary genres the one most apparently sealed from history, the one where "sensibility" may play in its purest, least socially tainted form' (Eagleton 1983: 51). Among the literary genres, poetry is seen as the most personal, the most emotional and introspective, the least social or political. If the novel orchestrates a number of characters, and drama functions through dialogue, then poetry appears to be sealed, sometimes almost hermetically, from the outside world, as the isolated writer communicates a personal message to the solitary reader. However, to take just the Romantics, this ahistorical view would obviously be frustrated by any analysis of Shelley's 'The Mask of Anarchy' or Byron's 'The Vision of Judgement'. These are poems whose content engages explicitly, though imaginatively, with contemporary politics - poems of the variety found in Kenneth Baker's anthology, The Faber Book of English History in Verse, which represents one attempt to place poems in terms of their reaction to social events and to construct a historical narrative, however scanty, through poetry. From another perspective, we need also to remember that it is only since the invention of the printing press that reading poetry has gradually come to replace the more traditional activity of the poetry reading (revived since the 1960s by an increased interest in performance poetry).