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Vol. 50 no. 1: Summer 2016

Kate Horgan, The Politics of Songs in Eighteenth-Century Britain, 1723–1795

  • Stephen R. Millar
24 May 2016
24 May. 2016


The Politics of Songs combines the perspectives of literary studies and political history to tackle a broad area of inquiry. It employs the “Princely Song,” from the well-known story of Richard the Lionheart’s rescue by his minstrel Blondel, as a unifying theme through which to explore the politics of song in romantic culture. Horgan uses Plato’s warnings over the mixing of music and politics “potentially leading to the breakdown of the law and constitution” as a frame to view the interpretation of political songs during the age of revolution (18). She explains the establishment’s fear of such music, which rose during the eighteenth century and culminated in songs’ being used as evidence of high treason—later reduced to conspiracy—at the trial of Henry Yorke, and in the transportation of Thomas Muir in 1794 and imprisonment of Yorke and James Montgomery in 1795.