Dangerous Talk: Scandalous, Seditious, and Treasonable Speech in Pre-Modern England
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.
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accused Acts ofthe Privy alehouse allegedly Assize Records authorities Bodleian Library Calendar of Assize Castle of York Catholic Charles II claimed Cockburn common conversation court Court of Chivalry crown CSPD damn death declared discourse Duke Earl Edward Elizabethan English Essex Record Office Francis George God’s hanged hath Henry VIII Hugh Pyne Jacobean Jeaffreson John Thurloe jury justices Kent Indictments King Charles King James King’s Bench knave lewd libel London Lord magistrates majesty majesty’s malicious Middlesex County Records monarch neighbour offence ofthe Privy Council Old Bailey Oxford papist parliament pillory political Poulett Prince prison PRO SP punishment Pyne’s Quarter Sessions regime reign remarks reported Richard Robert rogue royal rumours saying scandalous words scandalum magnatum seditious speech seditious words Sir John slanderous Somerset speakers speaking spoken Star Chamber statute Stuart talk tongue traitorous treasonable words Tudor undutiful utterance whore William William Laud witnesses yeoman