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Free trade and print culture : political communication in early nineteenth-century England.

Miller, Henry (2017) 'Free trade and print culture : political communication in early nineteenth-century England.', Cultural and social history., 14 (1). pp. 35-54.


This article highlights the potency of traditional popular print culture as a form of political communication for one of the pioneering campaigns of the nineteenth century: the free trade agitation of the 1840s. Contributing to recent debates about Victorian political communication, it challenges the view that the spread of literacy and print replaced a more traditional, inclusive, hybrid style of communication. The use and adaptation of broadside culture that blurred literacy, orality and visuality proved to be a more effective means of communicating free trade to popular audiences than ‘modern’ methods of political communication such as official newspapers or mass propaganda. Joseph Livesey, the most successful free trade populariser, was able to bridge the gap between free trade and Chartism, by drawing on elements of radical print culture, while seeking to shift them onto a more respectable trajectory. Livesey and cheap free trade print culture anticipated the shift from popular radicalism to popular liberalism in political culture and popular politics that occurred after 1850.

Item Type:Article
Full text:(AM) Accepted Manuscript
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Publisher statement:This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis Group in Cultural and Social History on 16/03/2017, available online at:
Date accepted:13 October 2016
Date deposited:17 October 2016
Date of first online publication:16 March 2017
Date first made open access:16 September 2018

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