The Perils of Print Culture: An Introduction
Three dates, , and , are significant in the history and development of print culture in Europe. In the Spanish Armada set sail for England with a cargo of troops and artillery.
The flotilla was designed to facilitate a conquest in the traditional manner — fire, sword, and the occasional forced conversion — and, as such, there was no need to bring printed materials or a printing press. By the end of the eighteenth century, print had become so ubiquitous that the First Fleet that landed at Botany Bay in inevitably brought with it a printing press: 3 by then it was impossible to conceive of creating a society without recourse to this technology. The similarity of the three dates is a coincidence, but a suggestive one.
It draws attention to the fact that the study of print and the presence or otherwise of a print culture in any society lead inevitably towards a series of both long-standing and more recently posed questions about the relationships between history, textual culture and print technology.
Mark Knights's new book is a major contribution to the history of later Stuart and despite his title early Hanoverian Britain. It succeeds in breathing life back into the political history of a period that had become dominated by works of cultural or intellectual history. Knights's work is, nonetheless, genuinely an analysis of "political culture" rather than high politics. This is political history informed by the "linguistic turn" and as attentive to the fluid and multivalent nature of discourse as any post-modernist could wish. Methodologically, it fits with many other works on early modern British political history which engage with Juergen Habermas's notion of the public sphere.roanadildesc.ml
Neale Lecture 2018
However, Representation and Misrepresentation , is more successful than many other works on the early modern public sphere because of the way in which it directly engages with Habermasian themes of rationality and Oeffentlichkeit. It is also the best study that we have of what early modern British politicos understood by "representation.
The scholarship on display in this work is highly impressive, ranging over archival resources in both local and metropolitan archives, as well as a dizzying array of printed material. Knights tackles sources that remain otherwise under-explored, like petitions, loyal addresses, and election advice, all demonstrating the extensive involvement of the public in the political process at this point.
Indeed, at points, I found myself wanting to hear a lot more about material which Knights only has space to discuss in passing, not least about the fantastic wood-cuts and prints that he uses to illustrate the text.
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Intellectually, the book is also very broad ranging. He is currently working on a project on corruption in Britain and its colonies from the Reformation to Reform, from which the material for this lecture will be drawn.
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Over the early modern period office shifted from being seen as a personal piece of property, with responsibilities to the monarch, to an employment with duties to the state and public. The blurred boundary between the private and public interests of office-holders, inherent in the personal nature of authority and social institutions such as gift-giving, friendship and patronage, was partially formalised; and new concepts, such as office as a fiduciary place of trust, helped to clarify concepts of accountability and misconduct.
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These very protracted changes were in part driven by, and constitutive of, state formation and they were also dependent on an interaction between domestic and imperial concerns.