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Rethinking the interests of eighteenth-century Britain

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British History in the Long 18th Century
Rethinking the interests of eighteenth-century Britain
Julian Hoppit (University College London)
5 October 2011

Julian Hoppit looks at the current state of research into eighteenth-century Britain.  His assessment is not entirely positive; seeing, for example, that the continued use of ‘class’ as a concept is harmful to our studies.  In the period, Hoppit believes that personal ‘interests’ of British society were talked about rather than class.  Interest groups have, for instance, been neglected by historians.

In the eighteenth century interest groups proliferated spurred on by significant changes that had occurred in parliamentary government since 1688.  These groups were, however, very rarely permanent or general in nature but rather focused on specific interests.  The weakness of historian’s study of the period then, is to look at the distinctive, the particular, and the unique, whilst ignoring the central question of what was common and what was not!

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