University of Hertfordshire

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Original languageEnglish
Number of pages2
Pages (from-to)467-468
JournalEnglish Historical Review
Journal publication dateApr 2011
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2011


The ‘moral economy’ is a perennial topic in British social history. Ever since E.P. Thompson's essay on the concept in 1971, studies of early modern society periodically return to the idea of patricians and plebeians being conditioned by unwritten rules of ‘reciprocity’ and ‘community justice’. David Collings provides a refreshing take on the demise of the moral economy by reinterpreting certain classic texts of the period: Edmund Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France (1791); Matthew Lewis, The Monk (1796); T.R. Malthus, Essay on Population (1798), and Mary Shelley, Frankenstein (1818). These analyses are complemented by an intriguing study of Jeremy Bentham's ‘Auto-Icon’, the stuffed remains of the philosopher, that now resides at University College, London. The book concludes with briefer surveys of loyalist-turned-radical writer, William Cobbett, and republican land campaigner, Thomas Spence. Collings underlines the pervasiveness of ‘reciprocity’ in these works and argues that it was challenged not just by the forces of government, population change, and the French Revolution, but also by its very own contradictions.


Original review can be found at: Copyright Oxford University Press [Full text of this review is not available in the UHRA

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