Reading List

Now it's approaching summer, I'm getting back to those piles of paper all around my desk that will eventually transmogrify into a book manuscript. I'm trying to sort out my bibliography and revisiting relevant books and articles that have informed my work. So I've decided to blog what I'm reading or revisiting here, just to keep a record. It may be of use if you're interested in popular politics and protest 1789-1848.

Today - the clamp down on radical spaces in the 1790s:
Christina Parolin, Radical Spaces: Venues of Popular Politics in London, 1790-1845 (ANU epress)

Michael Lobban, 'From Seditious Libel to Unlawful Assembly: Peterloo and the Changing Face of Political Crime, 1770-1820', Oxford Journal of Legal Studies, 10:3 (1990) is an article I've come back to and re-read, and am utterly convinced by his argument.

Lobban argues that governments attempted to clamp down on political radicalism using the laws against seditious libel until the crisis of 1819. Peterloo, and more particularly the Six Acts that followed in response, shifted the emphasis to new definitions of unlawful assembly. By 1839, when the Royal Proclamation against seditious meetings was issued, the government defined sedition as intent displayed by the act of assembling in a potentially threatening manner, rather than as had been previously, concrete proof of treason through the speaking of seditious words.

His conclusion explains the whole narrative of the ideas I've been considering over the past week:
"Until the end of the eighteenth century, when riotous activity was relatively common, the ruling classes were not as frightened of crowds as they would later become-indeed, the idea of a national police force scared them more. The fear of the crowd grew as the crowd was seen more as a threat to the established order; and paradoxically, this occurred when the crowds were becoming less turbulent, but more organized. The fact that they were political crowds made them a threat: the fact that they might pose a public order threat allowed the authorities to-clamp down on them." (p.352)

See also John Barrell, The Spirit of Despotism: Invasions of Privacy in the 1790s, and all the old debates on Pitt's 'reign of terror' [Clive Emsley in Social History and EHR; Steve Poole in Southern History; Philip Harling in Historical Journal]. Also, Alan Booth, 'Popular Loyalism and Public Violence in the North-West of England, 1790-1800', Social History, Vol. 8, No. 3 (Oct., 1983), pp. 295-313.


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