Sociability and democratic practices in Great Britain, 1760-1850
International colloquium, Université Bordeaux Montaigne, 5-6 October 2017
Deadline for submissions: 31 March 2017
From the popular movements associated with John Wilkes in the 1760s to the Chartists in the 1830s and 1840s, a growing number of demands were being voiced coming from outside, and often directed against, the principal state and ecclesiastical institutions (the royal court, Parliament, the Church). In the 1780s, supporters of parliamentary reform came together in various county associations across England and in burgh reform societies in Scotland.
Following the French Revolution, a plebeian form of sociability began to develop not only in the form of radical or Jacobin political societies and clubs but also as anti-Jacobin and loyalist groups. Abolitionist, working men’s and trade union movements, local and national leagues such as the Anti-Corn Law League and, of course, the Chartists also raised moral, religious and class-based demands. These are just some examples of the many diverse movements that adopted various forms of association and that were evolving at this time. Going beyond the simple question of ideology, and in analysing these different forms of sociability, recent historiography has significantly added to our understanding of these groups.
In particular, studies of the 1790s have shown that such democratic innovations owed at least as much to their new practices as they did to the ideas being disseminated by artisan societies such as the London Corresponding Society. The connections between ideology, practices and political consequences were nevertheless far from simple, as shown by the example of the loyalist associations that emerged in this period and whose aim was to counter the Jacobin threat. Paradoxically, these ideologically conservative associations also contributed to the politicisation of the common people, which was just what they were trying to avoid.