Charles Bradlaugh and the constitution
in The renewal of radicalism
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One of the most controversial political and legal struggles of the Victorian era, the ‘Bradlaugh case’ has long been considered a broad-based populist movement in which social and political tensions were largely absent. This chapter, however, suggests that the campaign is better understood as an uneasy and fragile alliance of two mutually suspicious factions. By offering contrasting perspectives on the nature and importance of the case and the ‘true’ meaning of the English constitution, radicals and liberals unwittingly drew attention to the important differences that separated the two traditions. This chapter also uses newspaper reports, election songs, poems and posters to uncover subtle differences in the way that working-class and populist radicals handled political concepts and articulated their understanding of the social order. Establishing the existence of such tensions helps to account for the tone, strategy and ideological basis of newer forms of politics that began to emerge in Charles Bradlaugh’s final years.

The renewal of radicalism

Politics, identity and ideology in England, 1867–1924

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