“The story of the neighbours”
: local relations, storytelling and the social organisation of power in north-east England, 1730-1815

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This thesis analyses the social organisation of power in north-east England between 1730 and 1815. Using witness testimony from the Durham consistory court and the records of the philanthropic Lord Crewe Trust, it works outwards from particular, local stories to the power relations which shaped their reception and impact. The Lord Crewe Trust records show that sentimental patronage, ties of ‘interest’ and (at the end of the eighteenth century) scientific philanthropy – all three of which were organised through extra-local networks of correspondence and association – defined the relationship between propertied benefactors and north-eastern villagers and townspeople. These new social relations also help to explain the shift in slander litigation which took place after 1750. Until mid-century, church court slander suits were defined by neighbourly relations. Slander existed as an offence because the church could not maintain its monopoly on moral judgment; even in court, litigants and witnesses continued to prioritise local opinion. But in the later eighteenth century, cases became less public and more adversarial. This thesis links the decline of slander to a wider shift in the location of power, one which broke down the early modern relationship between neighbourly and official regulation. It uses this focus to rethink historiographical narratives about the withdrawal of the eighteenth-century elite, and to explain how cultural developments which took place in the world of letters impacted local experience.
Date of Award1 Oct 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • King's College London
SupervisorLaura Gowing (Supervisor) & Anne Goldgar (Supervisor)

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