‘Radical Socialites, or sociable radicals: The Foxite Whigs and Visual Culture, 1780-1810’

Research output: Contribution to conferenceConference Paper


Focussing on the Westminster Elections from 1780-1788, and through the lens of visual culture, this paper would draw on my PhD thesis and Parliamentary History article to examine the role of ‘porous’ Foxite electoral sociability; a relationship and an electoral tool that was tactically employed during parliamentary elections to garner support from the voting public. In the case of Westminster, Charles James Fox specifically targeted lower-order voters. Manifestations of this form of sociability included: political dinners; hustings; street-canvassing; and tavern meetings. Porous sociability was an orchestrated and tactical weapon in the Foxites’ electoral arsenal and this paper would seek to explore its specific manifestations through visual political culture. More significantly, this form of ‘porous’ sociability was the physical embodiment of the temporary power and respect bestowed on the lower orders of Westminster during parliamentary elections. This fleeting inflation of lower-order status is crudely and effectively satirised in William Dent’s Advice to the Electors of Westminster (Fig.1). Whereas the candidate (Fox), is happy to drop to his knees and kiss the bottom of his potential lower-order butcher voter, after the election the dynamics were quickly reverted. I am interested in understanding how contemporary society understood, viewed, and satirized this form of Foxite-elector sociability and which manifestations were most depicted. Most of all, I am interested in the role of caricature beyond merely ‘reflecting’ porous sociability, and to determine this I will employ rhetorical, psychoanalytical and sociological approaches to caricature analysis.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2023
Event‘Politics Before Democracy: Britain and its world, c.1750-1914’ - University of East anglia
Duration: 19 Apr 202320 Apr 2023


Conference‘Politics Before Democracy: Britain and its world, c.1750-1914’


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