‘The Fiction of Ancestry’: Burke, History and the Dissenters

John Seed

in Dissenting Histories

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print November 2008 | ISBN: 9780748621514
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748651306 | DOI:
‘The Fiction of Ancestry’: Burke, History and the Dissenters

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This chapter focuses on Reflections on the Revolution in France. It explores how Edmund Burke exploited the immovable weight of conservative memories and histories of the seventeenth century in English political culture. Burke's language is of landed property and of the order of succession of the generations within a history – crown, peerage, privileges, franchises, and liberties are all inherited from a long line of ancestors. But the spirit of innovation has no ancestors. Richard Price and the Dissenters and reformers of the Revolution Society are denied historical legitimacy. They are a contagion from abroad, an alien stock, interlopers, and, like similar kinds of fanatics in other periods of English history, sources of violence and disorder.

Keywords: Edmund Burke; Revolution in France; conservative memories; Richard Price; English history

Chapter.  12971 words. 

Subjects: UK Politics

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