Dangerous Talk: Scandalous, Seditious, and Treasonable by David Cressy

By David Cressy

Harmful speak examines the "lewd, ungracious, detestable, opprobrious, and rebellious-sounding" speech of standard women and men who spoke scornfully of kings and queens. Eavesdropping on misplaced conversations, it unearths the expressions that obtained humans into hassle, and follows the destiny of a few of the offenders. Introducing tales and characters formerly unknown to historical past, David Cressy explores the contested zones the place deepest phrases had public final result. although "words have been yet wind," because the proverb had it, malicious tongues triggered social harm, seditious phrases challenged political authority, and treasonous speech imperiled the crown. Royal regimes from the home of Plantagenet to the home of Hanover coped variously with "crimes of the tongue" and located how you can computer screen speak they deemed harmful. Their reaction concerned policing and surveillance, judicial intervention, political propaganda, and the crafting of recent legislations. In early Tudor instances to talk sick of the monarch may possibly threat execution. via the tip of the Stuart period comparable phrases should be brushed aside with a shrug. This e-book lines the advance of loose speech throughout 5 centuries of well known political tradition, and exhibits how scandalous, seditious and treasonable speak ultimately won security as "the birthright of an Englishman." The full of life and obtainable paintings of a prize-winning social historian, it deals clean perception into pre-modern society, the politics of language, and the social impression of the legislations.

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Extra info for Dangerous Talk: Scandalous, Seditious, and Treasonable Speech in Pre-Modern England

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But if the speaker said ‘thou art a perjured knave’, or ‘thou art a thief, and hath stolen my beans’, a case might be made because the defamation imputed a crime. Similarly, to say of someone ‘thou keepest a house of bawdry’ was determinable at common law, whereas simply calling that person a ‘bawd’ was a matter for the spiritual courts. 46 In some jurisdictions, faced with particular language, the law was unwilling to act, for example, ‘for calling the plaintiff quean . . by reason of the uncertainty of that word’.

The Earl of Shaftesbury famously brought an action of scandalum magnatum against a Londoner who called him a traitor. Charles II’s brother the Duke of York used the same device against political enemies who blamed him for the fire of London and called him a ‘papist dog’. 78 The rash of legal actions, with huge awards for damages, led to calls in parliament that the noble privilege be abolished. ‘Commoners have had £20,000 verdicts against them; and a peer thinks himself dishonoured unless the jury gives what he demands,’ complained Sir William Williams in March 1689.

50 A popular theatrics of insult added actions to vocabulary, through derisory gestures of the face, limbs, hands, or thumbs. In many cases, to secure conviction, a court sought to render the actual incriminating words. In 1599, for example, when magistrates attempted to enforce orders about corn in a time of dearth, one local landowner protested, ‘they are knaves, I will keep none of their bastards, my goods are mine own, they nor the queen nor the Council have to do with my goods, I do what I list with them’.

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