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Jeffrey Collins publishes article in Journal of Modern History

Jeffrey Collins recently published an article, "The Popish Plot: A Case Study in the Political History of Fear," in the March 2023 issue of The Journal of Modern History (95, no. 1). 

This article places the Popish Plot of 1678–81 into two fresh historiographical frames: the history of emotions, and the history of early modern conspiracy theorizing. It argues that conventional readings of the plot uncritically echo contemporary sources, many of which presented it as a conspiracy of elite insiders. These interpretations rely on implicit, misleading accounts of the emotional history of the plot, according to which the fear or panic generated by the event was confined to a disempowered populace, which was in turn manipulated by dispassionate power holders. The article argues that the rhetoric surrounding the plot found in the surviving archive reflected the “emotional regime” of the era, but that this performative rhetoric failed to capture the actual dynamics of the Popish Plot and obscures our understanding of the popular agency that propelled it. The disjunction between the emotional norms of the era and the lived experience of the plot encouraged rampant conspiracy theorizing. This case study is intended to prompt some broader rethinking of the roles that conspiracy theorizing, and the presumptions about emotions and agency that inform conspiracy theories, play in moments of political crisis both past and current.

Read the full article in The Journal of Modern History

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Queen's University is situated on traditional Haudenosaunee and Anishinaabe territory.