Vol. 8: O’Brien, Gerard.

Type: Article

O’Brien, Gerard. ‘The Unimportance of Public Opinion in Eighteenth-Century Britain and Ireland.’, Eighteenth-century Ireland/Iris an dá chultúr, Vol. 8 (1993), Pp 115-127..

This article assesses the extent to which the ‘insiders’ (i.e., political decision-makers) in eighteenth-century Britain and Ireland, were not listening to the ‘outsiders’ (i.e., the general public), and why. According to O’Brien, “the ruling élites of eighteenth-century Britain and Ireland maintained, through traditional methods, a firm grip on their societies. In fact the very absence of governing institutions was in itself a form of social control in that it circumscribed the modes of and opportunities for expression of popular views and directed them into narrow and manipulatory channels”. The article discusses problems associated with the rules governing the process of public petitioning in England, Ireland and Scotland, as well as the role of the press and publishing industry, and their limitations in being “an effective source of influence on the decision-makers”.