This article examines the crowd as a narrative technology in literature and liberal historiography. Taking Dickens's Barnaby Rudge as my example, I show how the figure of the crowd not only consolidates liberal values, as previous scholars have argued, but also disrupts them by posing a challenge to the narrative tendency to simplify and villainize the crowd. Dickens's novel depicts the crowd in contradictory ways—as aggressive and friendly, moral and immoral, tense and serene—thus evading the easy equation of the crowd with the mob that liberal narratives usually offer. By portraying the crowd unevenly, the text unsettles English historical progressivism, which depends on depicting the crowd as an unruly horde to justify the nation's violent exclusions. The crowd, I argue, both reinforces and confounds the needs of narrative and liberal history for linear momentum and moral satisfaction.

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