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Thomas Whitfield, “Wilkes and Liberty” – Punch bowls and the later-eighteenth-century Wilkite agitations

4 April, 2019 @ 1:00 pm - 2:00 pm

Newcastle PhD Student Thomas Whitfield speaks on the topic of “Wilkes and Liberty”.

The consumption of alcohol is well recognised as being an important practice in the formation of community and in the assertion and negotiation of individual and group identity (Dietler 2006). This is particularly true in the context of the eighteenth century, when the techniques, technologies and practices of alcohol consumption grew to become more complex than in any previous period of history. Of particular note in eighteenth-century drinking practice is the widely popular and inherently sociable consumption of punch, characterised and exemplified in the variety and quantity of purpose manufactured vessels and paraphernalia produced as part of a specific technology of punch-drinking.

This paper focusses on an examination of one facet of punch consumption, punch bowls; and in particular, punch bowls produced during the second half of the eighteenth century to celebrate the radical politician John Wilkes. This study integrates textual and artefactual sources, employing a methodology derived from the work of Hall (2006, 2009) and Johnson (2006, 1999) to elucidate the hidden transcripts of punch drinking in the context of the Wilkes and Liberty movement. This paper explores the ways in which Wilkes themed punch bowls were instrumental both in cementing together communities of Wilkeite sympathisers through shared experiences and also in helping to code social interactions according to social standing, gender and politics.

As a series of case studies, this paper explores the role of the Wilkes and Liberty punch Bowls in identity formation, power relations which are situated at the forefront of historical archaeological research. These themes are particularly relevant in the context of the eighteenth century when society, economy and culture were in flux and people sought to define, renegotiate and assert their identities as both individuals and members of communities.


This session is organised by the Early Modern Discussion Group. All welcome!


4 April, 2019
1:00 pm - 2:00 pm
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Sheffield Centre for Early Modern Studies


Humanities Research Institute
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Sheffield, S3 7QY United Kingdom
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