Crowds, Culture, and Politics in Georgian Britain

Crowds, Culture, and Politics in Georgian Britain

Crowds, Culture, and Politics in Georgian Britain

Crowds, Culture, and Politics in Georgian Britain


Crowds have long been part of the historical landscape. Professor Nicholas Rogers examines the changing role and character of crowds in Georgian politics through an investigation of some of the major crowd interventions in the period 1714-1821. He shows how the topsy-turvy interventions of the Jacobite era gave way to the more disciplined parades of Hanoverian England, a transition shaped by the effects of war, revolution, and the expansion of the state and the market. These changes unsettled the existing relationship between crowds and authority, raising issues of citizenship, class, and gender which fostered the emergence of a radical mass platform. On this platform, radical men (and, more ambiguously, women) staked out new demands for political power and recognition. In this original and fascinating study, Professor Rogers shows us that Hanoverian crowds were more than dissonant voices on the margins; they were an integral part of eighteenth-century politics.


The 'Crowd' is, at best, an evanescent theme. Like the Cheshire Cat it is there, it is almost there, then it is not there, and then it is there again.

([Richard Cobb,] 'Overcrowding', Times Literary Supplement (30 Dec. 1965), 1205)

Over the past thirty years the study of collective protest has been a major point of departure for students interested in the history of the lower classes, especially those of pre-democratic societies. Admittedly, the subject was not ignored by earlier generations of historians. in France there existed a long tradition of left-wing historiography which addressed the question of popular ferment in the revolutionary era. in Britain and America popular unrest constituted a minor theme outside orthodox academic circles and, indeed, commanded some sympathetic attention from within the academy itself. But the examination of popular movements 'from below', in terms of the common people's own experiences and aspirations, expanded considerably in the late 1950s and 1960s to establish itself as a major tributary of the new social history. Evanescent or not, the crowd's status in historical discourse is hardly ephemeral, as even a brief glance at mainstream journals will testify. in fact, the history of popular disturbances has become an indispensable feature of the early modern era in particular, disclosing new facets of popular consciousness and highlighting, often in dramatic form, the broad structures of authority and power.

In spite of the welter of empirical explorations on the crowd in history, there have been relatively few attempts to explore its methodological and theoretical ramifications. Those that have been offered tend to focus upon the contributions of specific historians rather than upon this particular genre of history. What I propose to do here, as an introduction to my own contribution to crowd studies, is to trace the changing problematic of the crowd . . .

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