In this wide-ranging and challenging book, Ruth Smith shows that the words to Handel’s oratorios reflect the events and ideas of their time and have far greater meaning than has hitherto been realised. She explores literature, music, aesthetics, politics and religion to reveal Handel’s works as conduits for eighteenth-century thought and sensibility. She provides a full picure of Handel’s librettists and shows how their oratorio texts express key moral-political preoccupations and engage with contemporary ideological debate. British identity, the need for national unity, the conduct of war, the role of government, the authority of the Bible, the purpose of literature, the effect of art - these and many more concerns are addressed in the librettos. The book thus enriches our understanding of Handel, his times, and the relationships between music and its intellectual contexts.