Agents of the People by Pasi Ihalainen

By Pasi Ihalainen

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Nevertheless, language referring to the rights of the people, the representation of the people, the sentiments and voice of the people and even popular government were used by both the opposition and the government. After the challenges to Robert Walpole with this language, a period of calm of some twenty years followed. Towards the end of the 1760s, however, the concept of the people began to acquire an entirely new potential in parliamentary debates, thanks to Wilkite radicalism. Not only the extra-parliamentary opposition but also the parliamentary majority increasingly represented themselves as the spokesmen of the people.

The case of the Swedish Diet in the period 1769−1772 has often been passed over in international accounts of eighteenth-century political thought and culture, despite the fact that Sweden (and hence also present-day Finland) had for its time an exceptional political system based on the rule of the Estates. At the same time, there has been a tendency among historians to emphasize the unique role played by the Swedish Estates as forerunners of what has sometimes been characterized as “popular sovereignty” and even “representative democracy”.

The political elites were forced to either totally oppose these notions or to redefine the existing systems in a way that would permit them to meet the challenges of a rapidly changing and modernizing world. CHAPTER ONE BRITISH AND SWEDISH PARLIAMENTARY DEBATES IN A COMPARATIVE STUDY OF POLITICAL VOCABULARIES Historians have traditionally used the records of eighteenth-century parliamentary and estate debates to write the political history of the respective states and representative institutions.

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Agents of the People by Pasi Ihalainen
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