Introduction: Public Opinion and Foreign Policy, 1785–1815
This chapter offers a discussion of concepts of national identity, public opinion and foreign policy in the eighteenth-century context, with specific reference to France, Britain and the Netherlands. The chapter suggests an original interpretation of the concept of public opinion, dividing it into active opinion and latent opinion; the former the product of deliberate debate in the public sphere, and the latter the cumulative effect of longer-term perceptions, representations and cultural stereotyping. The chapter also offers a survey of interpretations of identity, “othering” and the eighteenth-century public sphere. It concludes by situating the influence of public opinion on military and political decision-making in a wider theoretical and chronological context.