Champion of English Freedom

The Life of John Wilkes, MP and Lord Mayor of London

Publication Date15th June 2024

Book FormatHardback





2024 marks the 250th anniversary of John Wilkes becoming Lord Mayor of London. A man simultaneously full of contradiction and principles, Wilkes was a giant of eighteenth-century England and helped shape modern Britain.
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John Wilkes was one of the most extraordinary and recognisable characters of the eighteenth century. In Parliament he was a fierce critic of the government and he used his newspaper, The North Briton, to help bring down the administration of Prime Minister Lord Bute. Expelled as an MP and prosecuted for libel, he staged a highly publicised return and became one of the key figures associated with securing freedom of the press.

Throughout his life, Wilkes adopted multiple guises, undergoing a series of apparently contradictory reinventions. Having started out as a libertine young man about town, he became an MP before spending several years in exile and in prison prior to his election as Lord Mayor of London. A talented classicist, he was also a seedy pornographer; vicious in his relations with many women, he was nonetheless devoted to his daughter. His behaviour divided friend and foe alike.

This new book, marking the 250th anniversary of Wilkes’s election as Lord Mayor, seeks to uncover the enigma of a man who fascinated his own period and remains an important symbol of freedom to this day.

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