A historical novel deals with historical events. A Tale of Two Cities is a historical novel in the sense that it focuses on the period before and during the French Revolution. In the novel Dickens gives the picture of England and of France during the 1780s.
The novel takes place in England and France in 1775. The age is marked by competing and contradictory attitudes. In England, the public worries over religious prophecies, popular paranormal phenomena in the form of ‘the Cock-lane ghost’, and the messages that a colony of British subjects in America has sent to King George III. France, on the other hand, witnesses excessive spending and extreme violence, a trend that anticipates the erection of the guillotine. In both counties the poor were exploited by the rich. While there was light and hope for the aristocracy, there was darkness and despair for the insolvent. So, it was the best of time for the rich while the worst of time for the poor.