Early modern British and Irish history is marked by a succession of fascinating radical movements, ideologies and events. From Kett’s rebellion, the Family of Love and Baptists, through to Levellers, Quakers and Whigs; from millenarians and mystics to those who believed in free grace, community of goods and even wives; from debates over forms of government, issues of sovereignty and natural rights, through to advocates of revolution and regicide, each was radical in the sense that it challenged fundamental political, religious or social axioms of its day. Yet significant questions remain. How useful are the terms ‘radical’ and ‘radicalism’ and should we persist with them? Can we speak of a ‘radical tradition’? Was radicalism a local, national or transnational phenomenon?
This interdisciplinary conference sets out to explore the role of migration and the exchange of ideas, images and texts in the history of those events, ideologies and movements (or moments). Once at the cutting edge of academic debate, radicalism has fallen prey to historiographical fashions as scholars have increasingly turned their attention to more mainstream experiences or reactionary forces. While acknowledging the importance of those perspectives, the aim of this conference is to provide a timely reconsideration of the position of radicalism within the early modern period. It sets out to examine the subject in original and exciting ways and challenges its speakers to adopt distinctively new and broader perspectives on what has traditionally been regarded as radicalism. The conference, which will be of interest to historians, literary scholars and members of the public alike, will raise a number of crucial issues. These include problems of definition, the changing face of radicalism and the notion of radicalism in evolution; and the impact of the movement of people, ideas, images and texts across and within geographical boundaries, as well as across time. How did these trends shape radical discourses and the reactions of their opponents, and is it helpful to look at radicalism in European or even Anglo-American contexts? In short, the conference seeks to rediscover radicalism by re-contextualizing it within much wider boundaries than have hitherto been considered. We very much hope you will wish to contribute to this lively debate.
A conference to be held at Goldsmiths College, University of London from 21-23 June 2006
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