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“George II and All That Stuff”: On the Value of the Neglected

Jeremy Black
Published: 1 January 2004
 in Albion
Albion , Volume 36, pp 581-607;

Abstract: A valedictory article is a piece of sadness, but it is also an opportunity to shout at the wind. This piece is doubly written in that sense, first because it focuses on a king, and secondly because it discusses sources and emphasizes the need for archival research. Readers who are enthralled in modishness, and in the multiple mirrors of post-modernism, will proceed no further, but that simply reflects the peculiar and self-serving nature of the dominant approach to eighteenth-century British political history, with its fascination for the rhetorical strategies of discourse and its lack of interest in the contents and contours of politics, and in the hard work required to re-create them.In part this reflects a sense that somehow all this high politics has been done, but that is deeply misleading. It is particularly so for the reign of George II (1727–60), for that monarch, a king in deed as well as name, still lacks a scholarly biography. This is an important omission, for, without such a study, the monarch appears as a figure of episodic importance, distinctly secondary to his ministers, and as a restraint on them, rather than as an initiator of issues. To understand the king and his role, it is necessary to consider him not thus from the outside but rather on the basis of a thorough study that makes full use of the surviving sources. Secondly, without a focus on the king, it is difficult to understand the Anglo-Hanoverian monarchy, and the problems this created for British ministers. Thirdly, the failure to give due weight to George II ensures that Britain appears more different from Continental states than it should, and certainly removes a possible way to offer a comparative study.
Keywords: king / sources / piece / monarch / surviving / George II / ministers / British

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