Mark Twain’s novel, “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court,” was published in 1889. The original title of the book was “A Yankee in King Arthur’s Court.” Some early editions are titled A Yankee at King Arthur’s Court.
In the novel, Hank Morgan, a Yankee engineer from Connecticut, suffers a terrible hit to the head and is transported in time and space to England during King Arthur’s reign. Hank understands he is in the past after some early uncertainty and captivity by one of Arthur’s knights, and he utilizes his expertise to convince people that he is a strong magician. He becomes a rival to Merlin, who looks to be little more than a fake, and gets King Arthur’s trust. Hank tries to modernize the past in order to improve people’s lives. Hank is outraged by how the Barons treat the commoners and attempts to institute democratic reforms, but he is ultimately unable to prevent Arthur’s execution. Hank declares England a republic, but the Catholic Church issues an interdict on him, frightened of his power.
Twain conceived the novel as a parody of Romantic conceptions of chivalry after having a dream in which he was a knight himself, greatly inconvenienced by the weight and clunky form of his armor. It’s a satire of feudalism and royalty that also glorifies homegrown inventiveness and democratic virtues while criticizing capitalism’s for-profit objectives and the effects of the Industrial Revolution. Twain even defends the French Revolution at one point in the book. It is one of numerous works by Twain and his colleagues that mark the movement of socioeconomic discourse from the Gilded Age to the Progressive Era. It is frequently cited as a seminal example of the time-travel genre.