Radical Manchester: William Gladstone, Feargus O’Connor … er… Hazel Blears?

I found this quite some time ago. Leaving aside the fact that apart from Ernest Jones, none of the historic ‘radicals’ listed really have obvious Mancunian connections, I couldn’t help feeling that it was maybe a bit presumptious to include Hazel alongside Gladstone. Perhaps the authors of the page meant that she had developed a radical re-intepretation of the law concerning capital gains tax.

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Think radical, drink radical

While spending an idle moment with a pint of Special reading the London Drinker, I came across the fantastically named Hertfordshire pub, The Land of Liberty, Peace and Plenty. The pub gets its name from the fact that the first Chartist Land Plan Colony, O’Connorville, was established at nearby Heronsgate. There’s a nice image of the imagined Chartist Utopia here. As a pub name, The Land of Liberty certainly beats the Slug and Lettuce.

Taking Liberties at the British Library, pt. 2.

As regular readers will recall, I posted a week or so ago about the publicity for this forthcoming (31st October) exhibition at the BL. The post got picked up not only by a few other bloggers, but also by Matthew Shaw, the curator of the exhibition. (Does the BL have some sort of web ‘rapid rebuttal unit’? When I wrote some ill-informed guff about their plans for digital theses, I also got a very swift response putting me straight.)

The BL very kindly invited me to have a sneak preview of some of the items in the exhibition. Matthew let me see the London Working Men’s Association minutebook, papers relating to Francis Place and Sir Francis Burdett, and the suffragette Olive Wharry’s prison scrapbook. If there’s anything likely to assuage a grumpy historian, it’s an opportunity to look at some old stuff.

The exhibition will feature items from outside of the BL’s own collections, including the original text of the Putney Debates (on loan from Worcester College) and the 18-foot long Great Reform Act, complete with stitched on amendments. Not only will it stretch chronologically from Magna Carta right up to the present day, but it will also tackle a variety of different themes, from the struggle for democratic rights to campaigns for freedom of the press, to the development of social and economic rights in the modern era.

Aside from the exhibition itself, there will also be a permanent website linked to it (not yet live), and a series of evening events debating key questions with guest speakers including Shami Chakrabati, Baroness Williams, Professor Conor Gearty and Polly Toynbee.

As somebody who likes watching the X-factor and also cares about threats to our civil liberties, I still don’t like the posters, but, hey, they’ve certainly provoked debate. Whatever my remaining reservations about the publicity, the range of documents on show, and the breadth of themes addressed, make this a very important and timely exhibition.

For more info, go here. Thanks very much to Matthew and his colleagues at the BL for letting me have a nose around and ask a few questions.

Malcolm Chase: -Chartism: A New History

is what I am currently reading. It is very good. Mile Taylor at THES agrees.

I particularly like the structuring of it, with a broad narrative interspersed with biographies of lesser-known Chartist figures.

Good that MUP have made an affordable paperback edition available too.

Published in: on May 26, 2008 at 6:01 pm  Comments (1)  
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