Imagining the Kings Death: Figurative Treason, Fantasies of Regicide, 1793-1796

Hardcover | March 15, 2000

byJohn Barrell

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It is high treason in British law to 'imagine' the king's death. But after the execution of Louis XVI in 1793, everyone in Britain must have found themselves imagining that the same fate might befall George III. How easy was it to distinguish between fantasising about the death of George and'imagining' it, in the legal sense of 'intending' or 'designing'? John Barrell examines this question in the context of the political trials of the mid-1790s and the controversies they generated. He shows how the law of treason was adapted in the years following Louis's death to punish what wasacknowledged to be a 'modern' form of treason unheard of when the law had been framed. The result, he argues, was the invention of a new, an imaginary, a 'figurative' treason, by which the question of who was imagining the king's death, the supposed traitors or those who charged them with treason,became inescapable.

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It is high treason in British law to 'imagine' the king's death. But after the execution of Louis XVI in 1793, everyone in Britain must have found themselves imagining that the same fate might befall George III. How easy was it to distinguish between fantasising about the death of George and'imagining' it, in the legal sense of 'intend...

John Barrell is Professor of English and Co-Director, Centre for Eighteenth Century Studies, University of York

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Format:HardcoverPublished:March 15, 2000Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0198112920

ISBN - 13:9780198112921

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Table of Contents

IntroductionPart One: Sad StoriesThe Last Interview'When Kings Are Hurled From Their Thrones'Part Two: The Invention of Modern TreasonConvention and ConspiracyThe British ConventionThe Trial of Thomas WalkerSecret CommitteesThe Arming of the L.C.S.Parliament and PrejudicationThe Trials of Watt and DownieThe Charge to the Grand JuryThe Trial of Thomas HardyThe Trials of Tooke and Thelwall'A Conspiracy without Conspirators'Part Three: Alarms and DiversionsThe Pop-Gun PlotTraitor or Lunatic: The Arrest of Richard BrothersPart Four: Phantoms of ImaginationThe Treasonable Practices ActKing KillingEpilogue: 'Fire, Famine, And Slaughter'AppendixNotesBibliographyIndex

Editorial Reviews

`In exploring these debates, Barrell is careful to see the issues involved from both sides ... this is a work of the finest scholarship ... deeply researched, rigorously argued and beautifully written ... handsomely produced.' H.T. Dickinson, TLS 12.01.01.