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 imperiled 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.
... 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 Another of Professor Cressy's highly original and stimulating studies. Using a wide range of sources...he traces the evolution of free speech in a splendid, highly readable work of history. Northern History,
Audience: Tertiary; University or College
Number Of Pages: 392
Published: 1st March 2010
Dimensions (cm): 24.2 x 16.5 x 3.2
Weight (kg): 0.74