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7. Parliamentary Rhetoric in Early Modern England

Dan E. Seward

Abstract

The forms of parliamentary address used in the modern British Parliament can be traced to early modern and medieval antecedents that were partly responses to contemporary political or practical concerns, partly recitations of even earlier oratorical customs. In an institution so valuing historical precedent as a form of legitimation, customs were important, but occasional innovations nonetheless tested and refined established practices of ceremonial speech and political debate. Prior to the English Civil Wars, the oratorical practices were shaped substantially by parliamentary procedures that evolved through centuries of both politic and contentious interactions among the Crown, Lords, and Commons. After the Restoration, these same procedures were revived, albeit with accommodations for a partisan political settlement that would last throughout the eighteenth century, aided in part by the parliamentary procedures themselves.

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