Showing posts from May, 2010

a psychogeographic walk

Went for a walk in Hertfordshire which ended up being somewhat of a derive.

Firstly, along the 'Alban Way', which is the old London Midland line between Hatfield and St. Albans. I always seem to end up going along old railway tracks and they all share that air of quiet neglect, no matter how much they were part of a regeneration strategy. Reached Hill End station, and again thought about all the people who would have waited there on the overgrown platform that survives for a train, now never to come [I feel like that often with First Great Western].

From Hill End, I diverted to the park on the grounds of the former Hill End mental asylum, founded in the late 1890s, changing its name in the 1930s to the euphemistic 'hospital for nervous diseases', and which was eventually closed in 1995. There is an ongoing project to commemorate the patients and staff of the hospital, but I've not seen anything from this yet. All that there is on site is an information plaque in t…

class yet again

Still ploughing my way through The Uses of Literacy. A usual exercise in picking out what seems most relevant, but at the moment pp. 59-60 caught my eye. A balanced if a little romantic view of the history of violence in working class culture, and how by the 1950s it was a bygone age, to be replaced by a desire for self respect.
Were the 1950s that golden, that removed from the cut-throats and bare knuckled fighting of the Edwardian and Victorian eras? Again, usual comment here about contemporary concerns about the drunken violence of town centres being nothing new.

It's also worth listening to this stand up/documentary about growing up in the East End. Runs through similar themes as Hoggart and Hanley, but with an personally acute awareness of the lack of aspirations and poverty of the working classes compared with the facades of being bourgeois.

'biggest shake-up since 1832'

'The biggest shake up since 1832'. No, no and thrice no. As any historian of reform will tell you, the first reform acts [yes, there was a separate act for Scotland], were far from 'great'. See my summary of the reform crisis in a previous post below. 
1832 and democracy should not be mentioned in the same sentence, if not paragraph.1832 changed very little. Representation was still based on the principle of property. the £10 householder franchise was a compromise [MPs originally wanted it to be £20], and actually defranchised the working classes in some large boroughs like Westminster, Preston, and Liverpool, which had previously had 'potwalloper' franchises or similar. the middle classes, though some of them got the vote, were too busy in their exchanges and factories to want to become MPs. They went on to 'single issue' politics in the Anti-Corn Law League, and bitterly opposed the Chartists [see the rants in the Manchester Guardian, that bastion of …

Denis Diderot (1713-84)

Denis Diderot I can't find a French philosopher who looks like Nick Clegg.

parliamentary reform - aide memoire

Fact time. 
Key points from this story:
during the American revolution, Major Cartwright called for what essentially became the Chartist six points sixty years later - annual parliaments, universal male suffrage, secret ballot, etc.It took until the French Revolution and Paine's Rights of Man (1791-2) to popularise the idea that the vote should be based on something other than the possession of property. Yet the battles around the reform bills in 1830-2 in parliament were focused solely on the possession of property, in its various forms. Even many of the working class men campaigning for the vote in the 1830s and 40s still framed the debate within the notion of property - arguing that labour was a form of property and therefore gave them a right to representation. It would arguably take until 1884, the third reform act, for parliament to recognise the 'rights of man' - representation based on some idea of equality.the redistribution of seats was always arranged for politica…

Short article in THES on my research

election candidates' unusual propaganda

Henry 'Orator' Hunt, the radical leader and speaker, was imprisoned for three years for his central role in the Manchester reform demonstration that became 'Peterloo' in 1819. After his release from Ilchester Gaol, he became a successful businessman and entrepreneur to fund his political activities. Notably, he sold tax-free 'Breakfast Powder' [?], and bottles of shoe polish with the label: ‘Equal Laws, Equal Rights, Annual Parliaments, Universal Suffrage and the Ballot’. Now that's a way to get your message across using the power of consumerism!
[Source: John Belchem, Oxford National Dictionary of Biography]

I'll also give a nod to the wide array of paraphernalia made in support of John Wilkes in the 1760s, including mugs, pots, pin-badges, and, allegedly, chamber pots, and the soles of shoes marked with '45' written in reverse so that the symbol would be imprinted on the ground.