Table of Contents


Title page

Copyright page





1 What is Scandal?

The Concept of Scandal

Gossip, Rumour and Scandal

Corruption, Bribery and Scandal

2 The Rise of Mediated Scandal

The Transformation of Visibility

Early Uses of ‘Scandal’ in the Media

The Emergence of Scandal as a Mediated Event

3 Scandal as a Mediated Event

Some Characteristics of Mediated Scandals

The Sequential Structure of Mediated Scandals

Agents and Organizations

Experiencing Scandal as a Mediated Event

4 The Nature of Political Scandal

Defining Political Scandal

Symbolic Power and the Political Field

Why is Political Scandal More Prevalent Today?

Political Cultures of Scandal

5 Sex Scandals in the Political Field

Three Types of Political Scandal

Private Life in the Public Domain

A Venerable Tradition

Changing Times

6 Financial Scandals in the Political Field

The Interlacing of Money and Power

Private Interests and Public Duties

Politics and Corporate Power

The Whitewater Imbroglio

7 Power Scandals

The Unveiling of Hidden Powers

Watergate and the Iran-Contra Affair

The Rise of Security Scandals

Blurred Boundaries

8 The Consequences of Scandal

Four Theories of Scandal and its Consequences

Power, Reputation and Trust: Towards a Social Theory of Scandal



Title page


1 Charles Stewart Parnell

2 Katharine O’Shea

3 The libelliste

4 Mercurius Britanicus, no. 92, 28 July–4 August 1645

5 ‘John Wilkes, Esq.’, 1763

6 ‘The West-End Scandals’, from the North London Press, 30 November 1889

7 John Profumo after his resignation, June 1963

8 Christine Keeler in July 1963

9 ‘Mr Thorpe resigns’, front page of The Times, 11 May 1976

10 The President and the intern, 17 November 1995

11 President Clinton appearing before the television cameras on 26 January 1998

12 The Clinton family leaving the White House, 18 August 1998

13 ‘The Marconi Octopus’, from Punch, 18 June 1913

14 ‘A liar and a cheat’, front page of the Guardian, 1 October 1996

15 ‘Under the thumb’, from Harper’s Weekly, 10 June 1871

16 The Whitewater sales brochure

17 Front page of the Washington Post, 19 June 1972

18 Nixon’s secret taping system in the Oval Office

19 ‘Nixon Resigns’, front page of the Washington Post, 9 August 1974

20 Oliver North’s ‘diversion memo’, circa 4 April 1986


In a long-running saga that veered at times into farce, Bill Clinton reminded us that scandal has become an occupational hazard of life in the public domain. Who would have imagined that, as the twentieth century drew to a close, the fate of the President of the most powerful nation in the world could be seriously thought by some to depend on whether a stain on a young woman’s cocktail dress bore the traces of the President’s semen? Despite the huge resources that are poured into government PR organizations today, and despite the fact that politicians and other public figures know very well that their activities will be subjected to intense media scrutiny, scandal has lost none of its capacity to disrupt the flow of events, to derail the most well-constructed plans and, from time to time, to destroy the reputations and careers of the individuals engulfed by it. Like some obstreperous child who refuses to play by the rules, scandal is an ever-present threat to those who have staked their careers on gaining power and achieving success in the games of public life.

Why have scandals acquired such salience in the public life of modern societies? Are they merely an expression of a general decline in moral standards, a weakening of our commitment to the moral codes which – or so it might seem – governed people’s behaviour in the past? Or perhaps the profusion of scandals in recent years has more to do with the unscrupulous activities of journalists and others who make their living in the media and off the media, and who have found that disclosing the private lives of public figures can be a rich source of profit. Undoubtedly scandal pays, and those who have most to gain by fuelling scandal in the public domain have little reason to refrain from cashing in when the opportunity presents itself.

But we would misunderstand the nature of scandal and its consequences for social and political life if we interpreted it solely as an expression of moral decline or as a product of unscrupulous journalism. As I shall try to show in the following pages, the salience of scandals today is linked to a broader set of transformations which have shaped the modern world and which have, among other things, altered the very nature of public life. Thanks to the development of communication media, politicians and other public figures are much more visible today than they were in the past; today it is much more difficult for them to throw a veil of secrecy around activities or events which they would prefer to keep out of the public eye. The rise of scandal as a significant feature of public life is symptomatic of this broader transformation in the nature and extent of visibility which has characterized the development of modern societies. This is not to say that all scandals are shaped by the new forms of visibility which characterize modern societies: on the contrary, scandal is a pervasive and ordinary feature of social life, and conversations are commonly spiced with the little scandals of everyday life. But scandal would not have acquired the salience it has in the public domain today, and would not be such a critical factor in determining the course of political events and the fate of politicians and other public figures, were it not for the fact that scandal has become interwoven with the transformations which have shaped the modern world.

This book is a contribution to the understanding of scandal and its consequences for social and political life. It is not intended to be a general survey of the many scandals which pepper the history of modern societies, nor is it meant to be an in-depth account of the circumstances surrounding the most recent exemplifications of the genre; my concerns are more analytical than descriptive, more thematic than encyclopaedic, and my interest in the phenomenon of political scandal arose long before the forty-second President of the United States found himself in deep water with a White House intern. This book was not written as a moralizing complaint about the culture of political scandal which seems to have grown up around us, nor was it conceived as a polemical attack against those who have sought to turn scandalmongering into a way of life; I shall not side-step the moral and practical issues raised by political scandal, but I shall try to avoid a sweeping and vituperative approach. My principal aim in this book is to develop an analytical account of political scandal and to outline a social theory of its conditions and consequences. If I take scandal more seriously than some might deem appropriate, this is because I believe that, beyond all the hype, scandal is an important social phenomenon which can have serious consequences, both for the lives and careers of the individuals involved in them and for the institutions of which those individuals are part. And I shall try to show that the significance of scandal is rooted in the characteristics of a world where visibility has been transformed by the media and where power and reputation go hand in hand. Scandal matters because, in our modern mediated world, it touches on real sources of power.

J. B. T., Cambridge, January 2000


I owe a substantial debt to numerous friends and colleagues with whom I have discussed the issues addressed in this book, and who have provided me with many helpful pointers and suggestions. I am especially grateful to Peter Burke, Anthony Giddens, David Held and Michael Schudson, who took the time to read an earlier draft of the text and gave me detailed and incisive comments; I have done my best to take account of their remarks, but any shortcomings in the final product are of course my sole responsibility. The University of Cambridge and Jesus College, Cambridge have been generous in granting me leave, without which it would have taken me much longer to write this book; I am grateful for their support. I should also like to thank Vanessa Parker for her help in preparing the text; Thelma Gilbert and Jackie Newman for their help in clearing permissions; Ann Bone for her typically meticulous copy-editing; and the many people at Polity and Blackwell – including Sandra Byatt, Gill Motley, Sue Pope, Serena Temperley, Kathryn Murphy, Leanda Shrimpton and Pam Thomas – who have helped to steer this book through the production process.

The author and publishers gratefully acknowledge the following for permission to reproduce copyright material.


CBS News Archives, New York, for the extract from ‘Steve Kroft interview with Bill and Hillary Clinton, 26 January 1982’, as shown on 60 Minutes.

The Free Press, a Division of Simon & Schuster Inc., for the extract from Stanley I. Kutler, Abuse of Power: The New Nixon Tapes. Copyright (c) 1997 by Stanley I. Kutler.

The Mirror, Syndications, for the extract ‘John Profumo’s letter to Christine Keeler’, Sunday Pictorial, 9 June 1963.

New York Times, for the extract from ‘Conversation between Nixon and Dean’, 21 March 1973.


The British Library, shelfmark 108a (6); The Guardian, the Syndics of Cambridge University Library and Sportsphoto Ltd (14); © Hulton-Getty (8); Mary Evans Picture Library (1, 2); National Archives (18); National Security Archive, microfiche collection item 2614, p. 5 (20); Press Association / Topham (7); Press Association (10); Princeton University Library (3); Punch and the Syndics of Cambridge University Library (13); the Syndics of Cambridge University Library (4); the Syndics of Cambridge University Library for a print from Complete Works of William Hogarth, Richard Griffin and Company, London (5); Times Newspapers Ltd and the Syndics of Cambridge University Library (9); courtesy of the Washington Post (11, 12, 17, 19).

Every effort has been made to trace the copyright holders, but if any have been inadvertently overlooked, the publishers will be pleased to make the necessary arrangements at the first opportunity.


‘Domestic treachery, systematic and long-continued deception, the whole squalid apparatus of letters written with the intent of misleading, houses taken under false names, disguises and aliases, secret visits, and sudden flights make up a story of dull and ignoble infidelity … The popular standard of morality may not be too exalted, but even the least prudish draw the line for public men above the level of a scandalous exposure like this, and cynically observe that, when the man of loose life is found out he must take the consequences.’1 Such was the judgement of The Times commenting more than a century ago on the well publicized affair of Mr Charles Parnell and Mrs Katharine O’Shea, an affair which eventually culminated in a successful divorce action brought by Captain William O’Shea on grounds of adultery. The affair might have generated relatively little interest in the press had it not been for the fact that Mr Parnell was a prominent political figure at the time. Heralded as the ‘uncrowned King of Ireland’, Parnell was the Member of Parliament (MP) for Cork and the charismatic leader of the Irish parliamentary party at Westminster; he was also a fervent advocate of Irish home rule, a cause to which Gladstone’s Liberal Party had lent its support but which the Tories, among others, opposed. It was in this sensitive political context, where Parnell was a key power-broker at Westminster and a pivotal figure in the complex negotiations concerning the future of Anglo-Irish relations, that the affair with Katharine O’Shea suddenly burst into public view.

Charles Parnell had met Katharine O’Shea in the summer of 1880, shortly after Captain O’Shea had been elected as MP for County Clare. Captain O’Shea spent much time abroad on business, while Mrs O’Shea lived with their three children at their home, Wonersh Lodge, near Eltham in Kent. In the early 1880s Parnell became a regular visitor at Wonersh Lodge, where he frequently stayed overnight; rumours began to circulate about a possible affair, but speculation was curtailed by firm and repeated denials. Between 1882 and 1884 Mrs O’Shea gave birth to three daughters which Captain O’Shea apparently believed to be his own, but which were almost certainly fathered by Parnell. In May 1886 the suspicions of an affair were fuelled by the public disclosure of the fact that Parnell was effectively residing at Wonersh Lodge. Under the headline ‘Mr. Parnell’s suburban retreat’, the Pall Mall Gazette reported rather discreetly (it was a small article on an inside page) that the MP for Cork had been involved in a collision with a market gardener’s cart shortly after midnight on a Friday evening. ‘During the sitting of parliament’, the Gazette continued, ‘the hon. Member for Cork usually takes up his residence at Eltham, a suburban village in the south-east of London.’2 Discretion notwithstanding, the implications of this paragraph were perfectly clear. The article caught the attention of Captain O’Shea who, angered and no doubt embarrassed by this public comment, fired off a letter to his wife, demanding an explanation. She responded by feigning ignorance (‘I have not the slightest idea what it means, unless, indeed, it is meant to get a rise out of you’), but by now their relationship was on a downward spiral. In 1889 Mrs O’Shea sold Wonersh Lodge and moved to Brighton, where she rented a house with Parnell. Captain O’Shea became increasingly estranged from his wife and on 24 December 1889 he filed for divorce, naming Charles Parnell as co-respondent.

When the trial opened on 15 November 1890, it was the focus of intense interest and was widely reported in the press. Parnell flatly denied the charge of adultery. Mrs O’Shea similarly denied the charge and filed a counter-petition, alleging that her husband had been guilty of cruelty and neglect and that he himself had committed adultery (including adultery with her sister, Mrs Anna Steele); she also alleged that he had connived in her own adultery, a claim which was curiously inconsistent with her denial that she had been unfaithful. But neither Mrs O’Shea nor Parnell turned up to defend the action. Captain O’Shea’s counsel, on the other hand, produced a string of letters and called witnesses – including former servants whose testimonies were reported in detail in the press – which seemed to establish a pattern of infidelity and deceit that had lasted for several years. One witness, a certain Caroline Pethers who described herself as ‘a professed cook’, described an occasion towards the end of 1883 when Captain O’Shea had arrived unexpectedly at the door of a house in Brighton which was being rented by the O’Sheas.3 Parnell was upstairs in the drawing room with Mrs O’Shea when the Captain arrived, but ten minutes later Parnell appeared at the front door and rang the bell, requesting to see Captain O’Shea. When asked how Mr Parnell could have managed to appear at the front door so soon after being in the upstairs drawing room, the cook explained that there were two rope fire-escapes from the window which enabled him to exit unnoticed – an observation which caused a minor sensation and gave rise to much scathing criticism in the press.

1 Charles Stewart Parnell


2 Katharine O’Shea


As expected, the jury found in favour of the plaintiff and granted the divorce. In the days and weeks following the trial, the press was filled with speculation about Parnell’s political future. His political opponents called for his resignation and some of his erstwhile allies – including Gladstone, who feared that the divorce case would unsettle the alliance between the Irish parliamentary party and the Liberals and jeopardize the cause of home rule – urged him to retire at least temporarily from public life. Parnell’s critics claimed that he no longer had the moral authority to lead a party, that he could no longer be trusted and that he had lost the respect of honourable men. Parnell refused to stand down and launched a counter-attack, issuing a manifesto which, among other things, denounced Gladstone for trying to influence the Irish parliamentary party in its choice of leader. But the tide was turning against Parnell; the alliance with the Liberals was collapsing and his position as leader of the Irish parliamentary party was becoming increasingly precarious. In December 1890, after lengthy and heated debates, the party split into two factions, one supporting Parnell and the other opposed to him. In the following months Parnell took the struggle to Ireland, where he campaigned in several by-elections, often amid angry and raucous scenes. But by now the Catholic hierarchy was also speaking out against Parnell, which greatly weakened his position in the countryside, and in each case the by-election was lost to the anti-Parnellite candidate. In June 1891 Parnell married Katharine O’Shea, but their marriage was not to last for long. Addressing a crowd in the rain in County Galway in late September 1891, Parnell caught a severe chill and died of rheumatic fever several days later, at the age of forty-five.4

This sorry tale of a lofty career undone by scandal has, at the end of the twentieth century, a wearisomely familiar ring. John Profumo, Jeremy Thorpe, Cecil Parkinson, Richard Nixon, Edward Kennedy, Gary Hart, Bill Clinton: these are but a few of the more recent names in a long list of public figures, many now forgotten, whose lives and careers have been indelibly marked by the scandals that unfolded around them. In our post-Profumo, post-Watergate age, we could be forgiven for thinking that political scandals are a curiosity of the late twentieth century, but the most cursory glance at the long and ignoble history of scandal would quickly dispel this impression. It could be said with some justification that, in the late twentieth century, scandal has assumed a significance in public life which outweighs the significance it had for previous generations, for reasons we shall try to understand. But scandal was not our invention.

Despite the long history of scandal and the profusion of scandalous disclosures of various kinds in the public domain today, there is a dearth of serious scholarly literature on the subject. There are various anthologies which offer informative but rather light-hearted tours of a terrain strewn with the damaged reputations of politicians and other public figures;5 and there are numerous books and articles, written both by journalists and by participants who have varying degrees of insider knowledge, which retell the stories of particular scandals from different points of view. However, there are relatively few studies which seek to examine, in a more analytical fashion, the nature of scandals and the social conditions which shape their emergence, development and consequences.6 Why this neglect?

No doubt scandal is viewed by many academic commentators as a subject too frivolous to warrant serious scholarly attention. Scandal should be left to the tabloid journalists and the gossip columnists; a subject so trivial – or so they might claim – does not deserve the attention of serious scholars. Others may be less dismissive, but feel nonetheless that to study scandal is to become preoccupied with the inessential. Scandal is the froth of social and political life, whipped up by unscrupulous journalists and media organizations who know how to use the sexual indiscretions of the powerful to make a quick buck. Worse still, it is a froth that obscures what really matters in social and political life, diverting public attention away from issues of real importance: unemployment, poverty, famine and civil wars in distant places are hardly mentioned in the daily press, while the sexual antics of a junior minister make front-page news.

This suspicion of scandal is understandable, but if we wish to make sense of the prominence that scandals have come to assume in the public life of modern societies then we must put these prejudgements aside. We must analyse scandal as a social phenomenon in its own right and try to understand its distinctive characteristics, without allowing our view of this phenomenon to be predetermined by a belief in its insignificance or by a sense of despair about the quality of public debate. The study of scandal may raise important questions concerning the role of the media in shaping public debate – for example, questions concerning the interests and priorities of journalists and media organizations, or concerning the legitimate scope for the journalistic investigation of the private lives of individuals who are in the public eye. But to refuse to take the phenomenon of scandal seriously on the grounds that it is a distraction from the issues that really matter (and one, moreover, whose effects on public debate can only be baneful) would be very short-sighted indeed.

In this book I shall take a different view. Rather than treating scandal as a topic too frivolous for the serious scholar or too inconsequential for the serious analyst of current affairs, I shall regard the prominence of scandal in the public life of modern societies as an issue of some significance – a puzzling issue which demands more analysis and exploration than one might at first think, and a revealing issue in terms of what it tells us about the kind of world in which we live today. I shall try to show that, if we want to understand the rise of political scandal and its prevalence today, then we must view it in relation to some of the broad social transformations which have shaped the modern world. We can understand the current prevalence of scandal only if we see that this phenomenon, which might seem so ephemeral and superficial to the impatient observer, is rooted in a series of developments which have a long history and which have had a deep and enduring impact on social and political life. Foremost among these developments is the changing nature of communication media, which have transformed the nature of visibility and altered the relations between public and private life. Scandal has become such a prominent feature of public life in modern societies primarily because the individuals who walk on the public stage are much more visible than they ever were in the past, and because their capacity to draw a line between their public persona and their private life is much more limited. In this modern age of mediated visibility, scandal is a risk that constantly threatens to engulf individuals whose lives have become the focus of public attention.

But political scandal also tells us something about the nature of power and its fragility, about the ways in which power is exercised in our societies, about the kinds of resources on which it is based and about the speed and the suddenness with which it can be lost. Political scandals can be, and often are, terrible personal tragedies for the individuals who are caught up in them; their lives may be thrown into chaos and their careers may be disrupted or even destroyed. But political scandals are not only personal tragedies: they are also social struggles which are fought out in the symbolic realm, in the to and fro of claims and counter-claims, of revelations, allegations and denials. They are struggles which have their own protagonists, each pursuing their own strategies in an unfolding sequence of events which often outpace the individuals involved and which, thanks to the media, are made available on a public stage for countless others to watch or listen to or read about. And they are struggles in which part of what is at stake are the very resources upon which power to some extent depends. Those who hold or aspire to positions of political power know very well that scandal is dangerous, that it can thwart their plans and bring their careers to an abrupt end. But scandal can also undermine their capacity to command the respect and support of others and it can have a deeply corrosive impact on the forms of social trust which underpin cooperative social relations.

In this book I shall try to develop an account of political scandal which, while attending to the specificity of particular cases and cultures, brings out the broader social and political significance of this phenomenon. I shall try to analyse the characteristics of political scandal with some degree of precision, to develop a framework for studying political scandal and to outline a social theory of scandal and its consequences. I shall also try to retrace the historical rise of political scandal, to examine the development of political scandals in different social and national contexts and to explain why political scandal has come to assume such significance in our societies today. The reader will find many specific scandals discussed in this volume, from Parnell to Profumo, from Watergate to Whitewater to the Clinton–Lewinsky affair. But this book is not a compendium of political scandals, nor does it seek to be comprehensive in its scope and coverage. My aim is to offer a systematic analysis of the phenomenon of political scandal, to relate this phenomenon to broader features of modern societies and to reflect on its implications for the nature and the quality of our public life. I shall draw on a wide range of materials, including newspaper articles and televised broadcasts, the reports of special commissions and committees of inquiry, the biographies and autobiographies of individuals whose lives were affected by scandal and the writings of journalists, political commentators, historians and other chroniclers of the past. I shall try to bring some order and clarity of thought to what is a very complex and muddy domain, to develop new ways of thinking about a phenomenon with which we are all very familiar but about which we understand very little, and to help us to see why political scandal has become, despite the efforts of our governments and their increasingly numerous spin doctors, a pervasive and ineluctable feature of our public life.

The first three chapters are concerned with the nature of scandal and its relation to the media. I begin by analysing the concept of scandal and differentiating it from related concepts, such as gossip, rumour and corruption (chapter 1). I then attempt to reconstruct the historical rise of scandal as a mediated event (chapter 2). I try to show that, while the word ‘scandal’ and its cognates were frequently used in pamphlets and other printed materials from the sixteenth century on, it was only in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries that a distinctive type of scandal event – what I call ‘mediated scandal’ – began to emerge. This development was linked to certain broader social transformations, including the changing economic bases of the media industries and the rise of journalism as a profession. In chapter 3, I focus on this distinctive type of event, mediated scandal, and analyse its principal characteristics.

This conceptual and historical analysis provides the basis upon which I begin, in chapter 4, to examine in detail the phenomenon of political scandal. I develop an account of power and of the political field which enables us to understand why scandal matters in politics, and why the consequences of scandal can be so devastating for those who hold or aspire to positions of political power. I also try to explain why political scandals have become increasingly prevalent in countries such as Britain and the United States in recent decades. I argue that the growing prevalence of political scandal is linked to certain changes in the media and in the culture and practice of journalism, but it is also linked to certain broad changes in the social context of politics. The social transformations of the postwar period have gradually weakened the ‘ideological politics’ of the traditional class-based parties, with their strongly opposed belief systems and their sharp contrasts between left and right, and have created the conditions for a growing emphasis on what I shall call the ‘politics of trust’. With the weakening of the forms of reassurance once provided by the long-standing social affiliations of political parties, many people look increasingly to the credibility and trustworthiness of political leaders or aspiring leaders, to their character (or lack of it), as a means of assessing their suitability or otherwise for office. And in these circumstances, scandal assumes a newly potent and self-reinforcing role as a ‘credibility test’.

In chapters 5, 6 and 7, I develop an analytical framework for studying political scandal and put it to work in reconstructing the development of political scandals in Britain and the United States. I distinguish between three basic types of political scandal – sex scandals, financial scandals and what I call ‘power scandals’ – and devote a chapter to each. Guided by this analytical framework and by the account of scandal developed in earlier chapters, I look back at some of the earlier scandals, like the Marconi affair in Britain and the Teapot Dome scandal in the United States, which were significant in their time but which have now largely faded from the collective memory; I examine some of the great scandals of more recent decades, such as Profumo and Watergate, which have helped to shape the political cultures of our time; and I analyse some of the scandals which have dominated the headlines in recent years, like the cash-for-questions scandal in Britain and the various scandals which have dogged the Presidency of Bill Clinton. While attending to the very specific and often labyrinthine details of these events, I also try to show that they generally display the characteristics of scandals as mediated events and that they form part of distinctive political cultures of scandal.

In the final chapter I stand back from the detail and offer a more reflective view on political scandal and its consequences for social and political life. I consider various theories of scandal – some drawn from the relatively limited literature on the topic, others invented as more-or-less plausible possibilities – and I try to show why they won’t suffice. I then develop an alternative account – what I call simply a social theory of scandal – which treats scandals as struggles for symbolic power and which highlights the connections between scandal, reputation and trust. In the conclusion I address some questions of a more normative kind about how we should assess the contribution that scandals have made, and are likely to make, to the quality of our public life.

I should add one important qualification. Most of my examples will be drawn from the Anglo-American world – and, for the most part, from the relatively recent political history of Britain and the United States. However, this restriction is not meant to imply that scandal is a recent phenomenon (it isn’t), that all scandals are political (they aren’t), or that Anglo-Saxons have a peculiar propensity for scandal (they don’t). One of the striking things about scandal is its omnipresence: from Japan to Brazil, from Italy to Argentina, scandal is a phenomenon that features prominently in the public domain. Of course, different national cultures of scandal have different characteristics; sex scandals typically play a much less significant role in French or Italian political life than they do in Britain, for example, while political scandals in France and Italy have been concerned primarily with corruption and the abuse of power.7 But there are relatively few countries where scandal in some form has not become a significant feature of contemporary political life. So the fact that my examples are drawn primarily from the Anglo-American world should not be construed as a comment on the political geography of scandal. And if my account of scandal and its consequences is sound, then it should help us to understand not only the scandals which have occurred in the Anglo-American world, but also those which have loomed large in the public domain elsewhere.


1 The Times, 18 Nov. 1890, p. 9.

2 Pall Mall Gazette, 24 May 1886, p. 8.

3 The Times, 17 Nov. 1890, p. 4.

4 For a full account of the circumstances surrounding this affair and its aftermath, see F. S. L. Lyons, The Fall of Parnell, 1890–91 (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1960); F. S. L. Lyons, Charles Stewart Parnell (London: Collins, 1977); Trevor Fisher, Scandal: The Sexual Politics of Late Victorian Britain (Stroud: Alan Sutton, 1995), ch. 7.

5 For a selection of anthologies and general surveys of scandal, see Colin Wilson and Donald Seaman, Scandal! An Encyclopaedia (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1986); H. Montgomery Hyde, A Tangled Web: Sex Scandals in British Politics and Society (London: Constable, 1986); Sean Callery, Scandals: Gripping Accounts of the Exposed and Deposed (London: Apple Press, 1992); Bruce Palling (ed.), The Book of Modern Scandal: From Byron to the Present Day (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1995); Matthew Parris, Great Parliamentary Scandals: Four Centuries of Calumny, Smear and Innuendo (London: Robson Books, 1995); Political Scandals and Causes Célèbres since 1945: An International Reference Compendium (Harlow: Longman, n.d.). I occasionally draw on these various anthologies, and especially on the helpful books by Matthew Parris and H. Montgomery Hyde and the very informative Longman volume.

6 Among the more serious and systematic studies of scandal are the following: Eric de Dampierre, ‘Thèmes pour l’étude du scandale’, Annales, 9.3 (1954), pp. 328–36; Maxime Rodinson, ‘De l’histoire de l’antisémitisme à la sociologie du scandale’, Cahiers Internationaux de Sociologie, 49 (1970), pp. 143–50; Manfred Schmitz, Theorie und Praxis des politischen Skandals (Frankfurt: Campus Verlag, 1981); Dirk Käsler et al., Der politische Skandal: zur symbolischen und dramaturgischen Qualität von Politik (Opladen: Westdeutscher Verlag, 1991); Anthony King, ‘Sex, Money, and Power’, in Richard Hodder-Williams and James Ceaser (eds), Politics in Britain and the United States: Comparative Perspectives (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1986), pp. 173–222; Andrei S. Markovits and Mark Silverstein (eds), The Politics of Scandal: Power and Process in Liberal Democracies (New York: Holmes and Meier, 1988); Suzanne Garment, Scandal: The Culture of Mistrust in American Politics (New York: Doubleday, 1992); James Lull and Stephen Hinerman (eds), Media Scandals: Morality and Desire in the Popular Culture Marketplace (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1997); Robert Williams, Political Scandals in the USA (Edinburgh: Keele University Press, 1998).

7 For a discussion of political scandals in France, see Philip M. Williams, Wars, Plots and Scandals in Post-war France (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1970). For a perceptive analysis of recent political scandals in Italy, see Judith Chubb and Maurizio Vannicelli, ‘Italy: A Web of Scandals in a Flawed Democracy’, in Markovits and Silverstein, The Politics of Scandal, pp. 122–50. Although I shall draw my examples primarily from the Anglo-American world, I shall occasionally use Italy as a point of comparison.