Wednesday, 27 January 2016

The Southern Star and the victims of political persecution

James Bronterre O'Brien established the Southern Star in 1840 to provide himself with a platform within the Chartist movement and as a counterweight to Feargus O'Connor's Northern Star.

The paper did not last long. O'Brien lacked O'Connor's charisma, and in any event there was no mass audience for such a paper in the South of England - unlike in the North, where campaigns against the New Poor Law had created a ready constituency among the spinners, weavers and factory workers.

Indeed, the paper might not have lasted as long as it did, but for one curious development. O'Brien was arrested just three months into the paper's life, and it might have folded then.

But publication was continued by an apparent supporter of O'Brien's - only coming to an end when the arrangement was denounced by O'Brien's wife, who said her husband had no knowledge of it.

The Southern Star did leave one useful legacy for subsequent historians. Week by week it published the names of Chartists who had fallen foul of the law along with details of their offence and sentence.

I have been able to mine these lists to name 196 "victims of political persecution", as they were headed in the Southern Star.

Read more about the Southern Star.

Read about the "victims of political persecution".

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