Radical Expression

Radical Expression : Political Language, Ritual and Symbol in England, 1790-1850

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This book examines radical politics in Britain in the wake of the American and French revolutions. Radical thinkers of the period expressed and disseminated their ideas not only in the formal language of journals and pamphlets, but also through symbols, such as the cap of liberty, which was hoisted at radical gatherings to invoke the ideas of the French Revolution. Even drinking rituals took on political meaning when radicals subverted the loyal toast to "His Sovereign Majesty, the King" with toasts "To the People, the source of all legitimate power." The book thus provides a colorful history of popular politics, examining such institutions as the Rotunda in London, a veritable circus of radical free thought where the "Devil's chaplain" preached deist sermons in full canonical robes. On a broader level, the book is an important contribution to discussions about the formation of political ideologies and communities of opinion, debates that are of great interest to historians today.show more

Product details

  • Hardback | 244 pages
  • 168.1 x 228.1 x 21.3mm | 576.07g
  • Oxford University Press Inc
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • 4 line illustrations
  • 0195065506
  • 9780195065503
  • 1,643,768

Back cover copy

Exploring a set of related themes dealing with popular radical language, ideology, and communication in late eighteenth-century and early nineteenth-century England, Radical Expression reexamines the rhetoric of popular constitutionalism and the associated repertoire of constitutionalist mobilization. James Epstein argues that, despite the impulses of the French revolution, popular constitutionalism remained the dominant idiom within which radicals framed their democratic demands. The constitutionalist idiom was a "shared" cultural inheritance, a "master fiction" defining England's place in the universe of nations. It was for this reason that radicals struggled to appropriate its language, to give their own accent to its central terms and to tell the "real" story of the nation's constitutional past. Epstein places particular emphasis on the symbolic and ritual elements within popular radicalism, including chapters on the dense web of meanings associated with the cap of liberty and the rituals of radical commemoration, toasting, and dining. As a counterpoint to the book's emphasis on constitutionalist modes of argumentation and mobilization, the book also includes a sustained consideration of the language, culture, and style of plebeian rationalism. Radical Expression makes an important contribution to discussions on the formation of political ideologies and communities of opinion. It will be of great interest to historians of Modern England, social historians. and political historians.show more

Review quote

"This book is an important new study in a much controverted subject: working-class history...Everyone interested in popular radicalism from the French Revolution to Chartism must read this book."--Historian"The book's many insights make it essential reading not simply for historians of Britain but for all scholars grappling with the task of comprehending culture as a set of practices as well as artifacts and texts."--Journal of Modern History"Radical Expression provides British historians with a much needed study of the ideas and symbols that underpin nineteenth-century radicalism and help explain its development....an important analysis of a topic which has received too little attention."--Journal of Social History..".[a] clearly written, richly textured series..."--Journal of British Studiesshow more

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