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The trial by Parliament of a turbulent priest

 A clergyman who preached a seditious sermon against the state and whipped up a mob that caused severe damage to property in the heart of London, was convicted in a landmark trial conducted in Parliament...

...300 years ago. Few people remember Dr Henry Sacheverell today, but in its time the deeply political prosecution in March 1710 caused a sensation. The sermon and the trial went to the heart of the ideological divisions between Whigs and Tories, and its result transformed the electoral fortunes of the Tory party.

The trial will be re-examined in a conference held on 23 March 2010 (the anniversary of the date of the verdict) in the Palace of Westminster just yards from where the 1710 prosecution took place.

Jointly organised by the University of Warwick and the History of Parliament, the event will enable historians to discuss the impact of  the trial.

The day conference marks the tercentenary of the parliamentary trial (impeachment) of Oxford academic Dr Henry Sacheverell in March 1710. This was a sensation in its day. It provoked serious rioting in London; prompted a huge public debate (one of the largest in the eighteenth century); and the political fall-out shook the Bank of England and led to a change of government (ultimately causing a Tory landslide victory).

The trial and the public debate it sparked turned on a number of issues that have enduring importance: the notion and limits of free speech; the relationship between church and state; and the legitimacy of a right of resistance. Through the Sacheverell trial it is also possible to analyse how far Britain had been transformed by the Revolution of 1688.

For more information about the conference, visit

Notes to editors

Sacheverell’s trial produced a great volume of satires and prints, which can be seen on the British Museum website. They include a pack of playing cards depicting scenes from the trial and riots]

Professor Mark Knights, Department of History, University of Warwick, 07732 911662, 

Dr Paul Seaward, director of the History of Parliament on 07782478869, or 020 7467 9811

Kelly Parkes-Harrison, Communications Officer, University of Warwick,, 02476 150483, 07824 540863,

Laura Kibby, Parliamentary Press Office, 020 7219 0718