British Politics in the Long Eighteenth Century: a Defence of Political History
Frank O’Gorman (Manchester)
Franco-British History seminar
22 November 2012

Abstract: This lecture sought to define the nature of eighteenth century British politics and to explain the context into which it should be placed. There can be little question that traditional accounts have usually defined politics in much too restricted a manner.  In the later decades of the twentieth century the sceptical approach to politics of Sir Lewis Namier and his school (inspired by the philosophy of Logical Atomism) was challenged by the optimistic ideology of Professor Sir Herbert Butterfield (inspired by Christian rationalism). For several decades eighteenth century British politics was dominated by this conflict, frequently focused on the status of political parties. To all intents and purposes, this discussion no longer attracts the attention it once did. But what, in the end, was eighteenth century politics about? What was it for? What did it consist of and how may it be defined? This presentation will hope to elicit discussion and ideas on this much neglected topic.

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