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Backlash

Libel, Impeachment, and Populism in the Reign of Queen Anne
Rachel Carnell
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BUY Ebook · 308 pp. · ISBN 9780813944449 · $34.95 · Nov 2020

A country bitterly divided between two political parties. Populist mobs rising in support of a reactionary rabble-rouser. Foreign interference in the political process. Strained relations between Britain and Europe. These are not recent headlines—they are from the year 1710, when Queen Anne ruled Britain.

In her engagingly written Backlash, Rachel Carnell tells the fascinating and entertaining account of the reign of Queen Anne and the true story behind the fall of the Whig government imaginatively depicted in the 2018 film The Favourite. As Carnell shows, the truth was significantly different—and in many ways more interesting—than what the film depicted.

The backlash began in 1709 when the Whigs arrested a popular female Tory political satirist and then impeached a provocative High Church clergyman for preaching a sermon repudiating the ideals of parliamentary monarchy and religious tolerance. The impeachment trial backfired, and mobs surged in the streets supporting the Tory preacher and threatening religious minorities. With charges dropped against the satirist, by 1710 she had written a best-selling sequel.

Queen Anne was careful and diligent in her monarchical duties. She tried to run a government balanced between the parties, but finally torn between the Whigs (including her longtime friends the Duke and Duchess of Marlborough) and the proto-Brexiteer Tories, she dissolved Parliament and called for elections. This brought in a majority for the Tories, who swiftly began passing reactionary legislation. While the Whigs would return to power after Anne’s death in 1714 and reverse the Tory policies, this little-known era offers an important historical perspective on the populist backlashes in the United States and United Kingdom today.

Reviews:


A vivid retelling of an overlooked political upheaval whose tumult and turmoil have surprising contemporary resonances.

Anne Somerset, author of Queen Anne: The Politics of Passion

A scholarly and lucid contribution to the narratives about Queen Anne and the Marlboroughs, highlighting striking parallels for British and American readers still recovering from the political shocks of 2016. This is history at its most useful.

Ophelia Field, author of The Favourite: The Life of Sarah Churchill and the History Behind the Major Motion Picture

An entertaining and instructive account of the last four years of the reign of Queen Anne. Clearly and vigorously written.

W. R. Owens, The Open University, joint General Editor of The Works of Daniel Defoe

About the Author(s): 

Rachel Carnell, Professor of English at Cleveland State University, is the coeditor of The Secret History in Literature, 1660–1820 among other books.

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