Public transcripts, popular agency and the politics of subsistence in early modern England
in Crowds and popular politics in early modern England
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In early modern England, crowd actions were one of the most powerful ways in which the ruled could negotiate the exercise of power. This chapter attempts to recover the broader 'infrapolitics' of the ruled, of which crowd actions form only a part. The starting point for this exercise is a critical engagement with the work of James Scott. Scott's notion of the public transcript can be made to address directly issues of political culture. While the public transcript is largely the work of politically dominant elites, Scott argues that it was the outcome of negotiation between dominant and subordinate groups. A rhetorical strategy, based on popular knowledge of the public transcript, while allowing subordinates to shame and coerce individual opponents, was most effective, when it allowed the ruled to summon authority to intervene on their behalf in the politics of subsistence.

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