Monday 27 May 2024

Palmerston and the publican: a tale of betrayal

Plans for an armed rising in London during the summer of 1848 were compromised from the start. Infiltrated by police informers and hopelessly ill-prepared, the Chartists and Irish Confederates who planned to seize the capital and spark a revolution never stood the slightest chance of success.

A slim folder of Home Office correspondence now in the National Archives reveals just how a capable and experienced police officer was able to keep tabs on the conspirators by entrapping a Seven Dials publican into betraying his comrades for small financial reward.

Friday 3 May 2024

Book review: Workers of Their Own Emancipation: Working-Class Leadership and Organisation in the West Riding Textile District, 1829-1839

Workers of Their Own Emancipation: Working-Class Leadership and Organisation in the West Riding Textile District, 1829-1839, by John Sanders (Breviary Stuff Publications, 2024)

When in the autumn of 1830, two delegates from the National Association for the Protection of Labour arrived in Halifax to promote the union’s cause, they encountered an immediate problem. Having called a public meeting, they were unable to find even a single local working-class radical able to take the chair - and through want of local leadership, their cause foundered and failed in the town.

In the years that followed, everything changed. By October 1838, when the radicals of the West Riding met on Peep Green to elect delegates to the First Chartist Convention, all but a handful of the 21 speakers were local working men – among them Lawrence Pitkethly and George Barker of Huddersfield; Abram Hanson of Elland; Peter Bussey of Bradford; George White of Leeds; Thomas Todd of Dewsbury; Samuel Dickenson of Almondbury; Robert Wilkinson and William Thornton of Halifax; and Joseph Crabtree of Barnsley. And in the towns they represented, there were many other capable working class leaders able to articulate their well-developed political ideas in writing and on platforms, and to organise their friends and neighbours in support of a wide variety of causes affecting their lives.

Wednesday 17 April 2024

COURAGE: Luddites-Peterloo-Chartists-Suffragettes

If like me you were a fan of graphic artist Polyp’s graphic novels about Peterloo and Tom Paine, you will be delighted to know that he is currently working on a new project - and it includes Chartism.

COURAGE: Luddites - Peterloo - Chartists - Suffragettes is described as, ‘An intense verbatim account of the shockingly violent struggle for the UK vote. Told in the words of those who were there.’

A crowdfunder to make it all happen is open until Tuesday 7 May. 

That doesn’t leave long for Polyp to hit his target, so please take a look and see if you can join me in backing it. 

Those who can contribute stand to get a whole load of goodies depending on your level of support - all the way through from a copy of the book and your name printed in the backers’ list for a tenner, to two signed and dedicated copies, some original artwork and your name in the list for £100.

Check out the crowdfunder today.

Here’s a fantastic suffragette image from the new book.



Tuesday 9 April 2024

More names for the Chartist Ancestors databank

I have added another 150 names to the Chartist Ancestors databank. This takes the total to 14,381.

Delegates to the first Chartist convention, meeting
at the British Coffee House, 4 February 1839.
The latest batch includes the names of all those elected as delegates to the General Convention of the Industrious Classes (the first convention) in 1839, whether or not they took up their seats.

I have also added the officers and councils of both the Carlisle Radical Association and the Carlisle Female Radical Association. Cumberland (as it then was) and Carlisle in particular are interesting Chartist centres, but to the best of my knowledge have not been properly studied. 

Friday 5 April 2024

Chartists and special constables: the Cumberland magistrates' embarrassing mistake

In the summer of 1839, as tensions ran high amid rumours of general strikes and armed risings, and the Chartists of Cumberland held threatening moonlit meetings, the mayor of Carlisle and the county’s magistrates decided to activate plans to swear in hundreds of special constables.

By the start of August, they could claim to have 195 specials organised into nine sections in Carlisle alone, each led by a ‘summoning constable’ able to mobilise their men in the event of ‘tumult, riot or fire’ under the overall command of the magistrates assembled at the town hall.