The Moral Economy of the English Crowd in the Eighteenth Century

TitleThe Moral Economy of the English Crowd in the Eighteenth Century
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication1971
AuthorsThompson, Edward P.
JournalPast & Present
Pagination76 - 136

This article takes a social historical approach to looking at England in the eighteenth century. It looks at the morals of the riots of the eighteenth century and how they influenced current governmental trends and philosophical thought. The author argues that: While this moral economy cannot be described as "political" in any advanced sense, nevertheless it cannot be described as unpolitical either, since it supposed definite, and passionately held, notions of the common weal - notions which, indeed, found some support in the paternalist tradition of the authorities; notions which the people re-echoed so loudly in their turn that the authorities were, in some measure, the prisoners of the people. Hence this moral economy impinged very generally upon eighteenth-century government and thought, and did not only intrude at moments of disturbance. The word "riot" is too small to encompass all this. [Author]

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