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Chapter 3 has a dual focus: it describes the law troubles of E. P. Thompson and his research assistant Edward Dodd in investigating eighteenth-century threatening letters for ‘The Crime of Anonymity’, and it explores threatening letters themselves as windows onto popular law consciousness. The research relationship between Thompson and Dodd was conducted by letter, and the chapter raises questions about letter-writing as a social and legal practice.
In the 1790s Godwin was implacable in his dislike of the law; thirty years on, as a historian rather than a political philosopher, he fell a little bit in love with it as he described the law projects and reforms of the Commonwealth period. His approbation grew thought the four volumes of his History of the Commonwealth of England. The chapter traces his journey from hatred to love. It also consider Godwin’s theoretical piece on ‘History and Romance’ (1797) in order to draw together the discussion of history-writing that runs through the book.
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