Type: Contribution to book
Defending the truth : arguments for free speech and their limits in early eighteenth-century Britain and France
Robert G. INGRAM, Jason PEACEY and Alex W. BARBER (eds), Freedom of speech : 1500–1850, Manchester : Manchester University Press, 2020, Politics, culture and society in early modern Britain, pp. 135-150
THOMSON, Ann, Defending the truth : arguments for free speech and their limits in early eighteenth-century Britain and France, in Robert G. INGRAM, Jason PEACEY and Alex W. BARBER (eds), Freedom of speech : 1500–1850, Manchester : Manchester University Press, 2020, Politics, culture and society in early modern Britain, pp. 135-150 - https://hdl.handle.net/1814/68078
Retrieved from Cadmus, EUI Research Repository
The title of this chapter may seem surprising in an age when the notion of the truth is a very contested one. However, after a long period in which doubt was cast on the very idea of truth and its existence, with emphasis on the way it was constructed and used by the powerful, one might argue that now, with the appearance of alternative facts and fake news, the notion is due for rehabilitation. This chapter therefore approaches the question of eighteenth-century discussions of the freedom of speech from the angle of the truth. The debate on censorship and the freedom of expression in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries has been frequently studied, often in the context of a teleological history of the development of our freedoms. But if we wish to abandon a Whig perspective and look at the contradictions in this history, the question of the truth is an enlightening strand on which to focus. It is true that many of the questions raised in what follows became more acute in the later eighteenth century, and of course during the revolutionary period, particularly but not only in France. However, it is worth going back earlier to see the tensions running through these issues and the debate around the freedom of the press. Although the focus here will mainly be on England, there are some excursions across the Channel, because the way the English situation and discussions were received, particularly in the very different French climate, helps to throw light on what was at stake in the English debates.
Cadmus permanent link: https://hdl.handle.net/1814/68078
Publisher: Manchester University Press
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