Loyalty, memory and public opinion in England, 1658–​1727

Author: Edward Vallance

Loyalty, memory and public opinion in England, 1658-1727 makes an important contribution to the ongoing debate over the emergence of an early modern ‘public sphere’. Focusing on the petition-like form of the loyal address, it argues that these texts helped to foster a politically-aware public through mapping shifts in the national ‘mood’. Covering addressing campaigns from the late Cromwellian to the early Georgian period, it explores the production, presentation, subscription and publication of these texts. Through an in-depth examination of the social background of subscribers and the geography of subscription, it argues that addressing activity provided opportunities to develop political coalitions. By exploring the ritual of drafting and presenting an address, it demonstrates how this form was used strategically by both addressers and government. Both the act of subscribing and the act of presenting an address imprinted this activity in both local and national public memory. The memory of addressing activity in turn shaped the understanding of public loyalty. The volume employs corpus analysis techniques to demonstrate how the meaning of loyalty was transformed over the seventeenth and eighteenth-centuries. The shifts in public loyalty, however, did not, as some contemporaries such as Daniel Defoe claimed, make these professions of fidelity meaningless. Instead, Loyalty, memory and public opinion argues for that beneath partisan attacks on addressing lay a broad consensus about the validity of this political practice. Ultimately, loyal addresses acknowledged the existence of a broad ‘political public’ but did so in a way which fundamentally conceded the legitimacy of the social and political hierarchy

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‘Loyalty, memory and opinion in England is a richly detailed study on the influence of loyal addresses in early modern political culture. […] I would recommend this book to anyone interested in the history of early modern print, politics, and memory studies. ‘
Reviews in History
April 2020

‘A stimulating and methodologically diverse contribution to the debate on “public sphere” politics in the later seventeenth century.’
Journal of British Studies
June 2020

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