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Reading comprehension

Social and historical context

Explainer Video

Tutor: Kat


Social and historical context 

​​In a nutshell

Context is all about the background of a text or 'the story about the story'. In this summary, you will learn about two different types of context and how they can affect the way a text is both written and read. 


When reading a piece of writing, its context is always relevant. Context describes the social and historical situation or circumstances at the time an author wrote a text. Being aware of context can help increase your comprehension of a text. 

Social context

The social context of a story refers to how any character's actions and attitudes are affected by their society. Social context is about how people lived and what they believed. You might be influenced by the way people speak on social media, or current issues. Characters in stories also tend to be influenced by various trends and situations of their time. 


Charlotte's Web by E. B. White

This novel was published in 1952 and the author lived at a time when nature was being romanticised (in America). This can be seen through White's love for the natural world in the novel.  

Historical context

Historical context highlights the period of time in which a story takes place. Events in history (wars, famine or even pandemics such as COVID-19) can influence a story. Heat or fire may be more important in a story written at a time before heaters or even electricity.


Black Beauty by Anna Sewell 

This novel was published in 1877​ and is about the condition of working horses in England. At the time of the novel in Victorian England horses were not treated lovingly. This is why the plight of Black Beauty is at the forefront of the story. 

English; Reading comprehension; KS2 Year 5; Social and historical context

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