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The English Uprising: Peterloo opens with the words ‘Two hundred years on, it is still possible to be angry about Peterloo’ … this was not ‘a clumsy exercise in crowd control’ when ill-disciplined troops panicked, but ‘an atrocity which requires explanation’ (p. 1).
This volume arrives with high praise. The book ‘[d]eserves to become another classic’, opines Peter Burke at the top of the front cover. It ‘[c]ompletely overhauls our view’, observes Ronald Hutton somewhat further down. The work itself is not shy of ambition either. Both the title—The Decline of Magic—and the subtitle—Britain in the Enlightenment—promise sweeping panoramas.
Research on immigration to Britain at the turn of the 20th century largely conforms to historiographical conventions which privilege the nation state as a framework for investigation and which adhere to narrative chronologies relevant to nations. These conventions, Ewence contends, eclipse much from view which does not easily fit into such established categories.
People down on their luck fleeing to the colonies on the first available ship is a mainstay of 19th century fiction. It was a convenient way for an author to either get rid of an unnecessary character, or to bring a surprise new person into the narrative mix with dramatic effect.
There is no more exemplary figurehead for the history of legal culture than the late Christopher W. Brooks. As the editors of this volume observe, by the time of his death in 2014 Brooks ‘had established a firm reputation as the most important and influential historian of law and society in early modern England’ (p. 1).
The history of religious toleration during the early modern period has been revitalised over the past decade. Scholars such as Alexandra Walsham and Benjamin Kaplan have shown that early modern society did not view toleration as the social virtue that was later espoused by enlightenment thinkers.
Lauren Benton and Lisa Ford’s jointly-written book is slim in size – 197 pages of text, 74 of notes – but expansive in scope and interpretative ambition. It is a dense, complex piece of history, frequently operating on several levels at once.
Karen Baston’s book is more than a revision of her Ph.D. It moves significantly beyond her thesis to open up fascinating new perspectives on the neglected subject of the place of the Scottish legal profession in Scottish public culture during the European Enlightenment of the 18th century.
At the start of this century, Tim Hitchcock and Bob Shoemaker undertook the digitisation of the surviving editions of the Old Bailey Proceedings, with the object to create a searchable resource in a form accessible to the public and free at the point of use. Last year, 2015, was the anniversary of the launch of the first database in 2005.
Towards the end of this fascinating study, Heather Shore reflects on the difficulty of ‘trying to uncover or reconstruct something that does not exist in a concrete form’ (p. 192). For Shore, the ‘underworld’ is a ‘cipher’, through which the press, the police, the government, and the wider society represents, and tries to understand, crime as a social problem.