Democratic Passions

The politics of feeling in British popular radicalism, 1809–48

Author: Matthew Roberts

This book takes a fresh look at British radicalism in the first half of the nineteenth century from the perspective of the new and burgeoning field of the history of emotions. It represents a major challenge to the ways in which historians have studied political culture in modern Britain by showing how we must break away from teleological assumptions about the rise of the rational public sphere. Politics did not just revolve around ideas, power, organisation and practice but also feeling. This project raises questions fundamental to politics in every age: should the public sphere be a domain free from feeling, or at least one where restraint is exercised? What are the consequences for democratic polities where either affective restraint, or its opposite, excess, operates? Are there occasions when public displays of feeling are acceptable (or less acceptable), and, if so, when and why?

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