Max Skjönsberg: The Persistence of Party – Ideas of Harmonious Discord in Eighteenth-Century Britain

The Persistence of Party: Ideas of Harmonious Discord in Eighteenth-Century Britain

By Max Skjönsberg


JMC fellow Max Skjönsberg has recently written a book, The Persistence of Party: Ideas of Harmonious Discord in Eighteenth-Century Britain. The book is due to be released in January 2021.

Political parties are taken for granted today, but how was the idea of party viewed in the eighteenth century, when core components of modern, representative politics were trialled? From Bolingbroke to Burke, political thinkers regarded party as a fundamental concept of politics, especially in the parliamentary system of Great Britain. The paradox of party was best formulated by David Hume: while parties often threatened the total dissolution of the government, they were also the source of life and vigour in modern politics. In the eighteenth century, party was usually understood as a set of flexible and evolving principles, associated with names and traditions, which categorised and managed political actors, voters, and commentators. Max Skjönsberg thus demonstrates that the idea of party as ideological unity is not purely a nineteenth- or twentieth-century phenomenon but can be traced to the eighteenth century.

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Max SkjonsbergMax Skjönsberg is a Postdoctoral Research Associate in the Department of History at the University of Liverpool, working on a collaborative project on “Libraries, Reading Communities and Cultural Formation in the Eighteenth-Century Atlantic.” He has previously lectured in history and political theory at the University of St Andrews and the University of York. An intellectual and political historian of the eighteenth century, he has published articles in the Historical Journal, Journal of British Studies, History of Political Thought, Modern Intellectual History, and History of European Ideas. He is interested in concepts of political party in eighteenth-century discourse and his research incorporates a contextual reading of thinkers such as Lord Bolingbroke, David Hume, Adam Ferguson, Edmund Burke, and others. In addition to being awarded the 2013 Skinner Prize from the University of London, he was David Hume Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities at the University of Edinburgh in 2018, and received the Parliamentary History Essay Prize in 2020.

Dr. Skjönsberg is a JMC fellow.

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