Monday, 30 May 2011

Historical quotation of the month

The opinion of General Sir Charles James Napier, sent to suppress Chartist disturbances in the North, 1839:

Manchester is the chimney of the world. Rich rascals, poor rogues, drunken ragamuffins, and prostitutes form the moral; soot made into paste by the rain the physique, and the only view is a long chimney: what a place! The entrance to hell realised!

Life and Opinions of General Sir Charles James Napier (1857), vol. II, p. 8.

Thursday, 26 May 2011

19th century cake wrecks

Here's yet another website - - that has made me look at historical evidence in a new way.

I've recently re-read Peter Brett's article on the significance of political dinners in the early nineteenth century. He describes the centrepiece of the table at a dinner in honour of the memory of Fox in Norfolk in 1820:

Temple of Liberty sculpted in sugar surmounted by a representation of Fame holding a flag of Whig colours inscribed with the initials MC for Magna Carta.
One suspects it was a right cake wreck. 

Brett, Peter, ‘Political Dinners in Early Nineteenth Century Britain: Platform, Meeting Place and Battleground’, History, 81: 264 (Oct. 1996), 532  

Sunday, 22 May 2011

passive aggressive historical notes

Having got a little bit addicted to this 'passive aggressive notes' website, I now read historical handbills and posters in a new way.

How about this one, issued by the Manchester boroughreeve and constables to advertise the celebrations for the peace treaty with France in October 1801:
'No warehouses or factories should be illuminated; nor any injury done to properties of such persons whose religious opinions may prevent their joining in the general mode of rejoicing on this occasion'.
[Chetham's library, Cambrics scrapbook, p. 53]
The authorities obviously feared a recurrence of the 'Church and King' riots that had disturbed Unitarians and Catholics in 1794, but it is the almost modern tone of the notice that is striking [such persons whose religious opinions...']

Friday, 20 May 2011

complaints about lack of street lighting contributing to crime rates

'We are deeply concerned to hear of the great increase of vice and crime in this town, especially at night; and the difficulty of preventing and detecting offences is much augments by the want of sufficient light; by the total absence of lamps in some places - particularly apply to the north of Manchester and Bolton Railway Station, where numbers of loose and disorderly people are frequently collected for their evil purposes'.
George Piggot, the vicar and churchwardens to the trustees of Great Bolton, 3 February 1840, Bolton Archives, ZHE 36/10, Heywood papers.

Thursday, 19 May 2011

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.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Livestreaming seminars

I've been working on how to live stream the 1 July colloquium on protest history. I'm fairly impressed by how the new digital history seminar at the IHR do it -

So I'm attempting to use Livestream for the broadcast, and zoho chat for the chat function, together with a live twitter feed.

Any suggestions for useful technologies (especially free ones) most welcome.

Here's my first webcam experiment with an advert for the workshop: completely amateurish, but I was just testing the technology.

I've also set up a discussion board for questions for 1 July: