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date: 22 February 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter argues that systems of government suppression and surveillance of written and vocal expression were present in Britain before, as well as after, the French Revolution and war with France. The chapter rebalances dominant accounts in Romantic studies of a small coterie of radical writers and poets by examining how suppression was embedded at a provincial and regional level, where enforcement agencies and legal authorities enjoyed a large degree of autonomy. Surveillance sometimes involved the use of directed informants (spies), typically persons holding local minor public offices. The chapter also examines how legal case histories created an often unpredictable series of precedents. The chapter shows how presecutions were often directed at publishers and booksellers rather than authors, and how assembly, rather than utterance, triggered government crackdowns, the venue of assembly being an important factor.

Keywords: sedition, rights, treason, spies, surveillance, black presence, London, censorship

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