Things that didn't Happen: Writing, politics and the counterhistorical, 1678-1743

Research output: Book/ReportAuthored book


An innovative exploration of fake news and alternative reality in late Stuart and early Hanoverian political and literary culture, from the Popish Plot and the South Sea Bubble to the Dunciad.

James Francis Edward Stuart, the Prince of Wales born in 1688, was not a commoner's child smuggled into the queen's birthing chamber in a warming pan, but many people said he was. In 1708, the same prince did not quite land in Scotland with a force of 5,000 men in order to claim the Scottish crown, but writers busied themselves with exploring what would have happened if he had succeeded. These fictions had as potent an effect on the political culture of late Stuart and early Hanoverian Britain as many events that really did happen.
From the alleged "Popish Plot" of Titus Oates to the South Sea Bubble, John McTague draws on a rich variety of sources - popular, archival and literary - to investigate the propagandic and literary exploitation of three kinds of things that did not occur at this time: failures which inspired "what if" narratives, speculative futures which failed to come to pass and "pure" fictions created and disseminated for political gain. Finally, a ground-breaking reading of the various versions of Pope's Dunciad reveals a work that in its exploration of historic causation and agency and its repurposing of the material of contemporary political and literary culture deploys many of the strategies explored in earlier chapters to present Hanoverian reality as if it were counterhistory.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherBoydell & Brewer
Number of pages296
ISBN (Electronic)9781787445192
ISBN (Print)9781783274093
Publication statusPublished - 20 Sep 2019

Structured keywords

  • Centre for Material Texts


Dive into the research topics of 'Things that didn't Happen: Writing, politics and the counterhistorical, 1678-1743'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this