The way that we have studied literature has changed over the years. ‘The study of English’ looks at how English language and literature have been studied since the 16th century. The detailed analysis of English literature texts began not in the educational system, but in what became known as ‘the public sphere’ — the realm of civil or ‘polite’ urban society that emerged in the 18th century. The public sphere of the 19th and 20th centuries allowed more space for debates about literature. The work of establishing accurate texts has accordingly been an important part of the history of English studies. Editorial choices are interpretive choices, providing foundation for the survival of the classics and thoughtful reading.