Postgraduate & Early-Career Seminar Series 2022: September

Postgraduate & Early-Career Seminar Series 2022: September

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September BSECS PG & ECR Seminar - David Cowan and Boaz Berger

About this event

The last Thursday of each month BSECS hosts a seminar specially aimed at postgraduate and early-career researchers. Each seminar consists of two papers presented via Zoom, followed by a discussion.

David Cowan, University of Cambridge, 'Party identity and ideology at Cambridge University, 1745-1815'

Cambridge University has frequently been a partisan and ideological battleground in British political history. The university’s leaders and ideas are featured in a wide range of studies of long eighteenth-century Britain, but few have focused exclusively on the university and the dynamics behind its politics. The research will examine the relationships between the Chancellors, Vice-Chancellors, High Stewards, Masters, Fellows, and Members of Parliament who collectively made up the leadership of Cambridge University. This includes prominent national statesmen such as Lord Newcastle and William Pitt the Younger. These relationships, in terms of friendships, alliances, and rivalries, defined the political atmosphere in the university.

The research will look at Cambridge University’s politics through the lens of international crises, from the Jacobite Rising in 1745 to the conclusion of the Napoleonic Wars in 1815. These global political shocks provoked strong reactions from across the ideological spectrum, setting the agenda and shaping partisan loyalties in Cambridge University. Under the pressure of these events, Whig hegemony would come to an end as new divisions between loyalists and reformers emerged, connecting politics in Cambridge University with the broader British establishment’s response to these crises like the American and French Revolutions. The goal of the research is to establish how the experience of Cambridge University can shed light on the national shifts in British politics during the latter half of the long eighteenth-century.

Boaz Berger, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, 'A Tale of Two Petitions: Public Participation and Parliamentary Responsibility from the Gordon Riots to the First Campaign for the Abolition of the Slave Trade'

In this presentation, I will present a key argument from my research about the changes in British political culture in the 1780s. I will outline these changes through two exceptional petitioning events that frame the period from both ends: the Gordon Riots (1780) and the first campaign for the abolition of the slave trade (1787-1792). By examining these events against the backdrop of imperial crisis on the one hand, and changing political culture on the other, I delineate a shift in the expectation for parliament responsibility that both strengthened Parliament and made it more accountable.

I argue that a nuanced change can be traced in political norms and expectations by looking side by side at the Protestant Association's campaign that led to the Gordon Riots and the public surge against slavery. To demonstrate this, I will show a continuous process between the Protestant Association’s petition, which both legitimized and stigmatized public participation, and the abolition campaign, which both responded to the imperial crisis and reestablished political stability Thus, we can achieve two goals: first, gaining a better understanding of the lasting effect of the Gordon Riots and the pre-1787 roots of the abolition campaign; and secondly, see how public participation was legitimized, providing an essential starting point for the nineteenth-century “golden age” of petitioning while elevating Parliament's role and responsibilities.

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