Finding Captain Swing: Protest, Parish Relations, and the State of the Public Mind in 1830

Author: Jones, Peter
Published in: International Review of Social History, vol. 54(2009) no.3, p. 429-458.
Summary: SummaryFrom the 1950s to the 1970s, the study of English popular protest was dominated by the work of Eric Hobsbawm, George Rudé, and Edward Thompson, and it is no exaggeration to suggest that their combined approach became the standard against which all subsequent work was judged. It was seminal, innovative and crucial to the emergence of a new “history from below”. But it was, to a degree, also formulaic: it relied on a trusted framework that historians have since struggled to deviate from. Through a detailed investigation of a set of disturbances in Berkshire, England during the so-called “Swing riots”, this essay seeks to demonstrate that a continued reliance on this model can be seen to have stifled a more nuanced understanding of particular “moments” of protest in the locality, and in doing so it places a much greater emphasis on local social – and in particular, parochial – relations than has previously been the case. In sum, within the context of late-Hanoverian popular protest, this essay is a plea for a new “history from within” to supplement the (now venerable) tradition of “history from below”.
Copyright: Copyright © Internationaal Instituut voor Sociale Geschiedenis 2009
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