Embodied spaces and violent protest
in Protest and the politics of space and place, 1789–1848
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The 1830s were the ‘age of reform’. This chapter examines the bodily and often violent protests against the Whig reforms and legislation of the 1830s, especially the 1832 Anatomy act, the new poor law of 1834, and the Rural Constabulary act of 1839. Radicals depicted these reforms as part of a Malthusian policy to attack the working-class body and to split up the pauper family. Protesters responded by bodily violence and by invoking ‘disembodied’ fear, through the use of effigies and other corporeal symbols. Trade unions employed violence against strike-breakers, machinery and the new police in defence of their collective body and against a laissez-faire political economy. These campaigns developed the essential organisation and ideologies that fed into the rise of Chartism from 1837 onwards.

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