Accounts of mass petitioning in Britain have generally focused on the deployment of petitions within progressive, reformist or liberal campaigns. Classic examples include anti-slavery, radicalism, Chartism, free trade, and women’s suffrage. Yet the new forms of mass collective petitioning that emerged in the late eighteenth century are best regarded as neutral technologies. Many of the largest petitions of the nineteenth century came from conservative, tory, loyalist, anti-reform or reactionary campaigns. The defence of the established churches consistently mobilised tens of thousands of petitions, and millions of signatures, as did opposition to granting rights to Catholics and Dissenters. To give another example, protectionist interests resisted free trade. These campaigns reveal that conservative petitioning was generally reactive, responding to proposed changes. In addition, the practice of petitioning within such movements made greater use of established bodies, such as clergy and the church, and was rather slower to develop new forms of association and adopt the new modes of mass petitioning than their opponents. For example, conservatives continued to emphasise the respectability and quality of signatures and petitioners, even after numbers had become increasingly important in the public debates over petitions on key issues. The use of petitioning was also significant in maintaining conservative identity. Overall, the engagement of conservatives shows how they adapted, if not to democracy, then to popular politics in the nineteenth century.
|Translated title of the contribution||Signatures of Conservatism : Petitioning, Popular Politics, and Campaigns Against Reform in Britain, 1780-1918|
|Number of pages||25|
|Journal||Historia y Politica|
|Early online date||17 Nov 2021|
|Publication status||Published - 30 Nov 2021|