Intertextual war: Edmund Burke and the French Revolution in the writings of Mary Wollstonecraft,
Thomas Paine, and James Mackintosh. By Steven Blakemore. Cranbury, NJ: Associated
University Presses, 1997. Pp. 256. ISBN 0-8386-3751-5. £32.
Radical expression: political language, ritual, and symbol in England, 1790–1850. By James
Epstein. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994. Pp. xi+233. ISBN 0-19-506550-6.
Tom Paine: a political life. By John Keane. London: Bloomsbury, 1996. Pp. xxii+644.
ISBN 0-7475-2543-9. £8.99.
Gothic images of race in nineteenth-century Britain. By H. L. Malchow. Stanford, CA:
Stanford University Press, 1996. Pp. xii+335. ISBN 0-8047-2664-7. £35 (hb). ISBN
0-8047-2793-7. £12.95 (pb).
Popular contention in Great Britain, 1758–1834. By Charles Tilly. Cambridge, MA: Harvard
University Press, 1995. Pp. xvii+476. ISBN 0-674-68980-1. £31.50.
Radical culture: discourse, resistance and surveillance, 1790–1820. By David Worrall. Hemel
Hempstead: Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1992. Pp. ix+236. ISBN 0-7450-0960-3. £40.
Most of these books are influenced by current philosophical or methodological concerns
which might be labelled, according to taste, as poststructuralism, postmodernism, or the
linguistic turn; but they are influenced to very varying degrees. At one end of the
spectrum stands Tilly's substantial study, essentially modernist, rejecting the latest
fashions. At the other stand the books by Blakemore and Malchow, their colours firmly
nailed to the mast of deconstruction. Blakemore teaches in a department of English, and
although Malchow's institutional affiliation is as an historian, his book is a hermeneutic
of literary texts. The great majority of ‘postmodern’ analyses of texts from this period
have come from the stable of literary studies, perhaps especially from scholars concerned,
as Malchow is, with the construction of gender, that great growth area of the present
time. None of these books subscribes in practice to a postmodern relativism, declaring
itself to be merely a construction or representation of the past: all arrive at some kind
of closure, explicitly or implicitly asserting the truth of their interpretations. Historians
concerned to justify their subject to funding bodies may judge this to be prudent;
nevertheless a greater degree of reflexivity, of self-doubt, would have been welcome in
some instances, as we shall see.