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The Politics of Petitioning: Parliament, Government, and Subscriptional Cultures in the United Kingdom, 1780–1918

Huzzey, Richard and Miller, Henry (2021) 'The Politics of Petitioning: Parliament, Government, and Subscriptional Cultures in the United Kingdom, 1780–1918.', History., 106 (370). pp. 221-243.


Over the course of the long nineteenth century, people in the United Kingdom signed a wide variety of petitions, addresses, testimonials, and related documents. Though many forms of subscriptional culture had medieval and early modern origins, their transformations across this period reveal the shifting perceptions of the crown, parliament, the administrative state, and local government. The article draws on a dataset of more than 1 million petitions to the House of Commons and surviving data from the House of Lords, alongside qualitative evidence of signed addresses to other authorities. This reveals a pattern whereby applications and requests increasingly took new, bureaucratic forms, and petitions became more closely associated with the representation of public opinion. The study suggests the value of examining the practices and processes, alongside the languages and ideas, that shaped political culture. This emphasises the participatory and representative politics of name‐signing as a means to materialise popular opinion in a responsive ‐ but not democratic ‐ state.

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Publisher statement:© 2021 The Author(s). History published by The Historical Association and John Wiley & Sons Ltd This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Date accepted:09 December 2020
Date deposited:12 January 2021
Date of first online publication:05 April 2021
Date first made open access:09 June 2021

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