Rethinking 'loyalty' in eighteenth-century Britain

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This article explores the meanings and applications of the term ‘loyalty’ in Britain between 1688 and 1815. Political historians today employ the term in an instrumental way to connote obedience, nationalism, conservatism and monarchism: this finds its expression in the phenomenon of ‘loyalism’. This article instead argues that ‘loyalism’ was not a current term in the eighteenth century, and that ‘loyalty’ had specific meanings for different political groups. It could connote a religious, a legal or an emotional tie: as such, the changing concept of ‘loyalty’ is indicative of the shifting relationship between the individual and the state
Original languageEnglish
Article number3
Pages (from-to)407-421
Number of pages15
JournalJournal for Eighteenth-Century Studies
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2012


  • loyalty
  • loyalism
  • politics
  • emotion
  • patriotism
  • monarchy
  • Britain


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