Rachel Rogers
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Self and community in radical defence in the French revolutionary era
The example of Oppression!!! The Appeal of Captain Perry to the People of England (1795)
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This chapter explores the tensions between individual identity and the collective whole raised both by and within the self-defence testimonies published by radical activists in the French revolutionary era. The particular focus is on a pamphlet published in 1795 by radical editor, Sampson Perry. What is emphasised through this study is the need felt by radical reformers to reassert their individual agency in a climate of persecution. Yet not only did radicals redefine their own sense of self, but they portrayed their individual causes as inseparable from the good of the community. Hence self-defence tracts and speeches were also a way of mobilising support for wider political reform at a time when open criticism of existing institutions could lead to prosecution. Finally, Perry’s direct address to his fellow citizens can be seen as performing some of the changes that reformers hoped to see adopted in the country at large, namely an unmediated form of democratic control of government and a heightened role for the people in decision-making.

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