Petitioning, addressing and the historical imagination: the case of Great Yarmouth

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    Abstract

    This article examines the role of loyal addresses, petition-like texts that emerged during the Cromwellian Protectorate in England, as repositories of public memory. It contends that loyal addresses were a particularly mnemonic form of political communication: not only did addresses themselves incorporate historical narratives but their reproduction in contemporary newsbooks facilitated their later collection in compendia and histories of addressing. These volumes in turn gave an overall ‘sense’ or character to public opinion nationally and allowed its shifts to be charted over time. The article uses the case study of an address to Richard Cromwell issued in 1658 from the corporation of Great Yarmouth to demonstrate how this text was redeployed to wage a political campaign against leading magistrates in the town in the 1670s. The address gained renewed political significance in the late eighteenth century, as the interplay of local political and historical interests made its depiction of the influence of religious factions in the borough once again relevant. This local memory in turn fed upon a wider national use of the Cromwellian addresses as an example of political faithlessness and duplicity. Combined, these local and national discussions demonstrated the importance of addresses in defining public opinion and political identity over time.

    Original languageEnglish
    Number of pages32
    JournalParliaments, Estates and Representation
    Early online date12 Oct 2018
    DOIs
    Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 12 Oct 2018

    Keywords

    • petition
    • cromwellian
    • loyal address

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