Queen anne

When sedition was rife in 18th-century London

Researching the seditious literature of earlier periods is seldom suspenseful, pulse-quickening work. For every thrill of archival discovery, there are countless hours of slow, methodical, sometimes crushingly unproductive labour aimed at uncovering the individuals and agencies behind books that, as clandestine productions, were primarily designed not to surrender such secrets. The underground networks behind dissident pamphlets in 17th- or 18th-century England, for example, frequently hid their own involvement by withholding the names of authors, printers and places of publication from their title pages, leaving puzzling blanks or laughable fictions in their stead. While contemporary press licensers had battalions of beagles, book-trade informants and the disciplinary machinery of the state to