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Theatre and Counter-Theatre in Georgian Politics: The Mock Elections at Garrat

Whenever the nation went to the polls in eighteenth-century England, the small hamlet of Garrat staged its own mock election. But, as John Brewer shows here, this was not only the occasion for a riotous burlesque - it provided the vehicle for some radical political ideas.

The small hamlet of Garrat, numbering some fifty dwellings, was located in the parish of Wandsworth, in south London. For most of the eighteenth century it was the scene of an extravagant mock election. Whenever the national electorate went to the polls – and also during some important by-election years such as 1763 - the inhabitants of the village staged their burlesque pageant which both imitated and parodied a vital part of the English political process.

Such events were to be found else- where in England – in Lancashire, Yorkshire, Worcestershire, Cornwall and Devon, for example – but none seems to have enjoyed as long a history or as great a notoriety as the spectacle at Garrat. Indeed there were several remarkable features of the Garrat election. It became not only a popular burlesque but also a vehicle for radical political ideas and an important visual and verbal metaphor in the political language that was shared by both popular and polite society.

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