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Dangerous talk : scandalous, seditious, and treasonable speech in pre-modern England / David Cressy.

Pbk. ed.
  • Oxford : Oxford University Press 2012, c2010
Physical description
xiii, 374 p. ; 24 cm.
  • 9780199606092 (pbk.)
  • 0199606099 (pbk.)
  • Originally published, 2010.
  • Includes bibliographical references (p. [335]-357) and index.
  • Introduction ; 1. Sins of the Tongue ; 2. Abusive Words ; 3. Speaking Treason ; 4. Elizabethan Voices ; 5. Words Against King James ; 6. The Demeaning of Charles I ; 7. Dangerous Words, 1625-1642 ; 8. Revolutionary Seditions ; 9. Charles II: The Veriest Rogue That Ever Reigned ; 10. The Last of the Stuarts ; 11. Dangerous Speech from Hanoverian to Modern England ; 12. Dangerous Talk in Dangerous Times ; Bibliography
  • Dangerous Talk examines the 'lewd, ungracious, detestable, opprobrious, and rebellious-sounding' speech of ordinary men and women who spoke scornfully of kings and queens. Eavesdropping on lost conversations, it reveals the expressions that got people into trouble, and follows the fate of some of the offenders. Introducing stories and characters previously unknown to history, David Cressy explores the contested zones where private words had public consequence. Though 'words were but wind', as the proverb had it, malicious tongues caused social damage, seditious words challenged political authority, and treasonous speech imperilled the crown. Royal regimes from the house of Plantagenet to the house of Hanover coped variously with 'crimes of the tongue' and found ways to monitor talk they deemed dangerous. Their response involved policing and surveillance, judicial intervention, political propaganda, and the crafting of new law. In early Tudor times to speak ill of the monarch could risk execution. By the end of the Stuart era similar words could be dismissed with a shrug. This book traces the development of free speech across five centuries of popular political culture, and shows how scandalous, seditious and treasonable talk finally gained protection as 'the birthright of an Englishman'. The lively and accessible work of a prize-winning social historian, it offers fresh insight into pre-modern society, the politics of language, and the social impact of the law.
  • Review: Review from previous edition ... Readers will come away well informed about just how colourful the language of the English people, at their boldest and most deliberately subversive, has been over the centuries. Anthony Fletcher, Times Literary Supplement Cressy writes in an engaging and accessible style ... If this pioneering survey of an important and neglected subject raises as many questions as it answers, it brings a mass of new information to our attention, and raises issues which future studies of early modern politics and religion will be unable to ignore. Bernard Capp, English Historical Review A splendid catalogue of outspokenness ... this engaging book opens a window into the social history of pre-modern politics. John Spurr, BBC History [Cressy's] meticulous research into unruly tongues touches upon village scandal, bawdy gossip and rumours, with colourful cases ranging from cursing in a Cheshire village to a row between Cambridge academics. Jenny Uglow, Financial Times Scholarly in nature and light in tone, Dangerous Talk is an intriguing glimpse into the private thoughts and public punishment of neighbors in pre-modern England. Lauren Puzier, Marie Antoinette's Gossip Guide to the 18th Century An important and convincing story, and David Cressy makes many useful reflections along the way upon the nature of early modern popular culture. In all respects this is another solid achievement from a reliably good historian. Ronald Hutton, History
  • Born in England and educated at Cambridge, David Cressy has made his career in the United States, where he is currently Humanities Distinguished Professor of History at Ohio State University. A social and cultural historian of early modern England, concerned with the intersections of elite and popular culture, central and local government, and official and unofficial religion, he is the author of nine books including Birth, Marriage and Death (1997), Agnes Bowker's Cat (2001), and England on Edge (2006). A Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, a Guggenheim Fellow, and recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Huntington Library, David Cressy has been a visiting fellow at Churchill College, Cambridge, and at Magdalen, St. Catherine's, and All Souls Colleges, Oxford.
  • Bibliography
  • English
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