Sep 08 2008

Lecture Series: Newton Key

Professor Newton KeyThe IUPUI British and Irish Studies Group will be hosting our third speaker of the 2008-2009 academic year on 10 November. We are excited to welcome Professor Newton Key of Eastern Illinois University.

10 November 2008

“The Aristocrat in the Tavern; the Informant in the Townhouse: Remapping the Public Sphere in Early Modern London”

3:00-4:00, Lecture Hall 105

Can we use patrician/plebeian to better understand metropolitan political culture in the long eighteenth century? The political world of London and Westminster was, according to Jürgen Habermas, Peter Lake and Steve Pincus, and other historians and literary critics, increasingly the bourgeois public sphere. It was inclusive (no deference to authority or hierarchy), oppositional (no limits to criticism), and publicity seeking (hostile to secrecy). But, when we define political as how (and where) those with power based on status, money/land, and political position met to attempt to decide and manipulate “the polity and the public good,” we quickly recognize the importance of meetings and rooms–private rooms in taverns, and private dining and drawing rooms, even libraries, of noble metropolitan households–as crucial arenas of political discourse. They were at times the focus of the public sphere. We need to emphasize the connections between those on the outside (the excluded) and those on the inside (the included). As much as “public opinion” sought to know what went on within the dining and drawing rooms of the noble private palace (the not-so-secret history of aristocratic domesticity), London lords sought ways to influence politics out-of-doors. An important corollary of “storming the closet” was “courting the crowd.” To illustrate how this social history of place can reshape our vision of the political public, I compare examples of early Whigs meeting with supporters in city and East End taverns with the visits of informants and others to their West End townhouses. I suggest that we need to think of an anti-court situated in these private palaces as much as in coffeehouses. In contemporary images of political meeting places both real and imaginary–from the earl of Shaftesbury’s Thanet House to Robert Harley’s library to the fantasies of Calves-Head Clubs and radical “Committees”–private rooms are an important aspect of the public, as are doors, windows, and gates.

Professor Key’s recent publications include Sources and Debates in English History, 1485-1714 (Blackwell) and Early Modern England, 1485-1714: A Narrative History (Blackwell), both with Robert Bucholz. He has contributed articles to the Welsh History Review, the English Historical Review, the Huntington Library Quarterly, and the Journal of British Studies.

Sponsored by the IUPUI Department of History.

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