Approaching subalternity from a broad Gramscian angle, this edited collection contributes to the understanding of popular politics in parliamentary, autocratic, and colonial contexts.

The book explores individual stories and micro-histories of complaints, requests, rumors, and other mediated and unmediated interactions between political institutions and the subjects they claimed to govern or represent. It challenges the approaches of institutionally oriented political historiography and its attention to the top-down construction of political representation, citizenship, and power and powerlessness. The book discusses more subtle forms of agency and the spaces these pertained to, which could indicate contestation or resistance taking place within a framework of loyalty towards the existing political institutions. This research does not only bridge the divide between political and apolitical frames of reference, but it also provides a new perspective on the dichotomy between loyalty and resistance by acknowledging the nuances of these seemingly opposing stances. With case studies from Europe, North Africa, South America, and India, the chapters cover political communication in proto-democratic, democratic, imperial, and authoritarian contexts.

This volume is crucial reading for undergraduates, postgraduates, and scholars in history and social sciences who are interested in political culture and the mechanisms of negotiating local, national, or imperial identities.


Chapter 4 of this book is freely available as a downloadable Open Access PDF at https://www.taylorfrancis.com under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC-BY) 4.0 license.

chapter |10 pages


Subaltern political subjectivities

part I|55 pages

Subaltern political participation in an autocratic context

chapter 1|17 pages

Voice of the people

The politics of petitioning in modern Latin American history

chapter 2|15 pages

Letters to the Caudillo

Petitions in miserable times, 1936–1945

chapter 3|21 pages

Finding subjectivities in Fascist Italy

“Mothers of the Fallen” between symbolic and experienced political participation

part II|101 pages

Subaltern political communication in the context of (proto-)democratic representation

chapter 5|21 pages

At the crossroads of local and national representation

Peasant petitions to the Diet of Finland in the 1860s and 1870s

chapter 6|18 pages


“Democratic patronage” and the subalterns in France, c.1875–c.1935

chapter 7|14 pages

“Reading the newspaper made me believe that…”

Sources and uses of political knowledge in the liminal space between subaltern and elite politics. Paris, 1894–1920 *

chapter 8|24 pages

How to bridge the gap?

The issue of popular political engagement in the Netherlands, c.1945–1965

part III|61 pages

Spiritualization of politics in embodied subaltern narratives

chapter 9|19 pages

From subaltern experience to political tradition

Telling and knowing revolutionary martyrs in the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, 1848–1860

chapter 10|25 pages

Nonsense and the senses

French sources of knowledge in colonial Algeria, 1846–1871