Dr John J McTague

BA(Oxon.), M.St(Oxon.), DPhil(Oxon.)

  • BS8 1TB

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Personal profile

Research interests

Restoration and early eighteenth-century literary, political, and news cultures; the history and practice of print; the history of historiography, particularly forms of historical writing outside of the neo-classical mode (i.e. pamphlets, broadsides, periodicals, newsletters); history of the book and analytical bibliography; hoaxes and conspiracies; Swift; Pope; Defoe; Behn.   

My general interests are in literature and politics in the late-Stuart and Hanoverian periods, bibliography and the history of the book. My monograph, Things That Didn't Happen: Writing, Politics and the Counterhistorical, 1678-1743, is about the counterhistorical tendencies in the literature and propaganda of this period, focussing on fabricated conspiracies, failures, and speculations such as the Popish Plot, the Rye House Plot, and the South-Sea Bubble. My work deals a lot with anonymous and pseudonymous publications, but also engages with the works of such writers as Dryden, Rochester, Behn, Defoe, Swift, Mandeville, and Pope (the book concludes with an extended reading of the Dunciads). I am the co-editor (with Rebecca Bullard) of The Plays and Poems of Nicholas Rowe, Volume 1: The Early Plays (Pickering and Chatto, 2016). I was a textual / assistant editor for The Correspondence of John Dryden, ed. by Stephen Bernard (Manchester Univ., 2022). I have written journal articles and book chapters on Swift's Bickerstaff hoax, the warming-pan scandal of 1688-9, the arrest of Delarivier Manley after the publication of The New Atalantis in 1709, political poetic miscellanies, 'practical' satire of the eighteenth century, and prose hoaxes, bites and shams.  

I am a co-founder and co-director of Bristol Common Press (est. 2021), a working historical print shop and practice-led research facility in the Faculty of Arts, which has recently been the base for a number of collaborative research projects exploring historical and contemporary letterpress printing techniques and processes, working with partners in the local letterpress community. I was a co-director of the Centre for Material Texts from 2017-22.

In 2017 I was co-I (with PI Josie McLellan) on the Brigstow Institute funded project 'Telling Stories About Learning Difficulties', a collaboration with Openstorytellers that sought to tell the story of Fanny Fust, a wealthy Bristol heiress with learning difficulties who in 1787 was abducted and carried to France by the fortune-hunter Henry Bowerman, where he married her. The Brigstow project that led to a successful Heritage Lottery Fund bid and the development of the Fanny Fust performance, which premiered in Frome in July 2018. Watch an Openstorytellers animation telling the story here.  

I have supervised a PhD on the culture of secrecy and literary politics in England, 1687-1754 (Jingyue Wu) and am currently co-supervising a thesis on eighteenth-century representations of female violence and intimidation (Louise Bray). I would be delighted to hear from prospective postgraduate students interested in my areas of research, or indeed in areas adjacent to them. The establishment of Bristol Common Press in 2021 opens up exciting new opportunities for new kinds of historically-informed practice-led research into print cultures and the history of letterpress printing, and I'd be happy to speak with prospective students about that, too! 

Structured keywords and research groupings

  • Centre for Material Texts


  • Eighteenth-century Literature
  • Restoration literature
  • Late-Stuart Politics
  • Hanoverian Politics
  • History of Historiography
  • Analytical Bibliography
  • Letterpress Printing
  • History of the Book
  • Practice-led research
  • Co-produced research
  • Scholarly editing
  • John Dryden
  • Alexander Pope
  • Jonathan Swift
  • Daniel Defoe
  • Aphra Behn
  • Delarivier Manley
  • Hoaxes
  • Propaganda


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