4.6. Satire & The Law: Libel, Censorship & Freedom of Speech

Happy Anniversary to SAWTAS! It’s been three years to the day since Adam and Jo first took to the airwaves. In this episode, they reflect on their tremendous and unlooked-for success, and take a moment to consider whether it’s possible to talk about satire without being pretentious (spoiler: yes). Once that’s established, they talk to special guest Dr Andrew Bricker from Ghent University about satire, libel, and the law, and the ways that all of those things were connected in our very favourite century, the eighteenth one. We explore how the law responded to satirists, and how satirical work shaped libel laws in that period, and consider the legacies of that relationship today. Along the way, we hear about a fascinating addendum to the Jonathan Swift/Lady Mary Montagu dressing-room-based scrap, talk about cancellations, comedy, and a little bit of Brontë business too. From twenty-first century pseuds (not us, we’re talking about Private Eye) to eighteenth-century feuds – it’s our anniversary and we’ll talk about satire if we want to.

Andrew, author of Libel and Lampoon: Satire in the Courts 1670-1792 (Oxford University Press, 2022), will also be joining us at the York Literature Festival in March.

Listen to the full episode!