Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Revolution in Regency Britain


While the course of English political History is such that there was no revolution of the sort which took place in France, or indeed in America, all was not a sweet and light in Britain for the laboring poor. The feudal system still in place in France had long gone, the power of the monarchy being severely limited by Parliament after Cromwell's time and that followed on from the Magna Carta.

There were several periods of general unrest and small uprisings. One such was the Pentrich Rebellion in 1817.

The men of the Derbyshire village of Pentrich formed themselves into a small army and on the night of June 9th 1817 and marched towards Nottingham led by Jeremiah Brandreth, a stocking maker (pictured here). They expected to meet up with many thousands coming from the North of England and join with them in a great march towards London, where they expected to see the overthrow of the government and the establishment of a republic.

Unfortunately, no one else showed up and the men were either executed or exported to Australia. I decided not to used the pictures of the hanging, and beheading of which there are several. Suffice it to say, it was brutal and it was public.

The reasons for this uprising were many and would take a whole history book to outline, but in summary, there were laws introduced by Parliament which made bread, a staple food, very expensive, soldiers returned from the war to find themselves with no work, except badly paid factory work in the cities, and the lack of representational government. On this latter for example: Of the 558 members of parliament, most of them represented electorates of under 500 people. Major industrial towns such as Manchester, Birmingham and Leeds had no MPs at all. The government argued that an MP was not “the agent of the place that chose him, but of the whole community.” The unpopularity of the Prince Regent and his extravagant lifestyle was also a factor in disgruntlement.

There is also evidence that the actual march was incited by the Government agent William Oliver.

On that cheerful note, I will wish you Happy Rambles until next time.