Imagining the King's Death: Figurative Treason, Fantasies of Regicide, 1793-1796

Imagining the King's Death: Figurative Treason, Fantasies of Regicide, 1793-1796

by John Barrell
     
 

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

Overview

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 was acknowledged 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 and imaginary reading, 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 inseparable.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A review cannot do more than sketch in the detailed subject matter and the closely argued thesis presented in a book of this length, complexity, and subtlety. What needs to be made abundantly clear is that this is a work of the finest scholarship. Imagining the King's Death is deeply researched, rigorously argued, and beautifully written. It is handsomely produced with nineteen illustrations which are integral to the argument of the text, a superb bibliography and a very useful index. What makes it a work of such distinction, however, is its originality."—Times Literary Supplement

"Barrell's grasp of legal argument and distortion, his detailed reconstruction of the activities of the reformers and those who sought to restrain them, and his literary eye for ambiguity and rhetorical play make the book a magnificent achievement.... The detail is meticulous and the account magisterial."—Times Higher Education Supplement

"In this splendid book, John Barrell...offers a close analysis of the tumultous years of the mid-1700s in Britain.... Barrell wields his considerable erudition with a deft and magisterial touch, seamlessly melding law, politics, history, literature, and art into a riveting narrative Gesamtkunstwerk. The book is exhaustively researched, vigorously argued, and peppered with a mischievously droll wit.... This book deserves a wide readership, and scholars in many disciplines will find much that is instructive."—Law and History Review

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780198112921
Publisher:
Oxford University Press, USA
Publication date:
06/01/2000
Pages:
760
Product dimensions:
6.30(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.90(d)

Meet the Author

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

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