The Catholic University of America


Ethan Rudman

“International Insult: An Examination of a Newspaper Libel Case in the Context of Eighteenth-Century Anglo-Russian Relations and English Libel Law”


I am a senior History major with minors in Theology and Medieval & Byzantine Studies from St. Mary’s County, Maryland. I am also a law clerk for a personal injury firm in Southern Maryland.  Upon graduating in May, I plan to continue living and working in the D.C. area. I wrote this paper for a class I took in Spring of 2017, English Crime: 1200-1800. While I had originally tried to research crimes involving the Royal Family or English aristocracy, I was eventually led to a collection of state trials. As someone interested in European history and fascinated by the diplomatic and political developments of imperial Britain, the case discussed in my paper was immediately attractive.


Question #1

If you could highlight just one piece of evidence from your essay which would you choose and why?

It would definitely have to be the record of the Courier trial in the State Trials collection. This source is the heart of my case study, and it is the reason this project came to be in the first place. It showcases all of the different social, political, and diplomatic elements that I address, and is a unique example of British state overreach in the freedom of the press. The complex combination of diplomatic needs, personal inclinations, and the freedom of the press with the written law makes this case extremely fascinating and receptive to multifaceted analysis.  


Question #2

In your paper, you talk about how “commissions from the Catholic Church were the pinnacle of architectural exploration and innovation.” What do you think is the Catholic Church’s lasting contribution to architecture from the middle ages?

I think my enthusiasm for the subject matter of this case study is really what compelled me to submit to Inventio. With a tremendous amount of help from with Dr. Poos, I was able to produce something that I am happy with, and I would like to share that. The initial research for this paper required me to go down the rabbit hole a bit, searching for answers to the questions I had, and that process really convinced me that academic research and writing can be fun and exhilarating. I have certainly walked away from this experience with more respect for researchers and the work they do, because it is truly rewarding.


Question #3

Your article highlights the way in which the Courier was prosecuted by the British government in order to maintain smooth relations with Russia. You write that the particular state of these international relations was a driving factor behind the government’s harsh treatment of the paper. In modern times, what do you think is a similar example of a government performing overly severe punishment on an internal person/organization for the “greater good” of the country?

I should start by saying I am not really qualified to answer this question, but the first example that comes to mind is North Korea. It is virtually indisputable that DPRK citizens are subject to all sorts of deplorable treatment, ostensibly for the stability and common good of the nation. Perhaps an example a bit more similar to Britain’s treatment of the Courier would be in Putin’s Russia. It is no secret that the opposition parties are suppressed, prosecuted, and persecuted by the state with some regularity. What seems different to me in most modern cases, however, is that the suppressive entities are motivated by a desire to stay in power or maintain a particular regime, whereas with Britain and the Courier I think a strong case can be made that the prosecution was primarily motivated by conditions genuinely in the interests of the state.