The part played by the crowd in the political struggles of the Restoration period — the ‘intervention of the mob’ in politics, to adapt Max Beloff’s phrase — has long been recognized.1 There were riots and petitions against the republican regime in the winter of 1659–60, and Charles II’s restoration in the spring of 1660 was greeted with popular demonstrations of support in many parts of the country. By the time of the Exclusion Crisis (1679–81), however, so the traditional argument runs, this enthusiasm for the Stuarts seems largely to have evaporated. Anxieties provoked by the revelations of the Popish Plot in 1678 enabled the Whigs, through their use of the popular press, to exploit the deeply embedded anti-Catholic prejudices of the English populace and rally public opinion behind them in their campaign to seek the exclusion of the Catholic heir, James, Duke of York, from the succession. There were pope-burnings and other demonstrations on behalf of the Whig cause not just in London, but in many parts of the country, while Whig mobilization of the masses is further evidenced by the monster petitions that they were able to promote in support of their position. Popular agitation against the Stuart monarchy can be seen again at the time of the Revolution of 1688, as angry crowds attacked the residences of leading Catholics and tore down Catholic meeting places in the capital and elsewhere, in protest against the policies of James II.
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