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This chapter is part of a research project directed by the authors, focusing on the major Swedish witch-hunt that took place in the county of Dalarna 1668-1671. In late seventeenth-century Sweden there were several mechanisms for the reintegration of convicted criminals into both the religious and secular community, with the church playing a key role. In the historiography of witchcraft it has been recognised that the background and the relationships between the involved parties in a witch-hunt were determining factors for how things would turn out. A notable example is the Countess Charlotta Taube who was made the very symbol of the Enlightenment struggle against superstitious witch-hunts. The heavily emphasised connection between superstition and the common people in the writings of the eighteenth-century Swedish elite did not reflect reality. Nevertheless, the folklorist-romantics of the late eighteenth century reinforced the stereotypical image of superstition as a 'popular' phenomenon.

in Beyond the witch trials

Magic and witchcraft constituted the scenery, and often the script, of everyone's life during the eighteenth century as much as it had ever done in the seventeenth or sixteenth. For the instruments of any attempt to unify Scotland's remarkable diversity were the Law and the St Giles Kirk, and it is a remarkable fact that, London government and commercialising landlord apart, neither appears to have exerted itself overmuch in relation to crimes of magic. The eighteenth century did not look kindly upon either the Episcopal Church, which found itself in disgrace after 1745 because of its alleged support for the Stuart cause or the Presbyterian Kirk, which was more and more plagued by controversy. Compared with the Kirk's intense scrutiny of adulterers and fornicators and her eagerness to punish their sins, the pursuit of witches can sometimes seem almost desultory.

in Beyond the witch trials

This book is the first edited collection of poems and songs written in the immediate aftermath of the Peterloo Massacre in 1819. Of the seventy or so poems included in the anthology, many were published as broadsides and almost half were published in radical periodicals, such as the moderate Examiner and the ultra-radical Medusa with many from the Manchester Observer. Although I have provided headnotes and footnotes to support the reading of the texts, I intend them to stand alone, conveying as much of the original publication as possible, in order not to dilute the authenticity.

Following an introduction outlining the events before, during and after the massacre as well as background information on the radical press and broadside ballad, the poems are grouped into six sections according to theme, rather than chronologically or by publication because I want the reader to note the similarity between so many of the poems. Grouped in this manner, one cannot avoid the voices echoing down the centuries, speaking to us of the horrors of the time in texts that can no longer be ignored. Shelley’s Masque of Anarchy is included as an appendix in acknowledgement of its continuing significance to the representation of Peterloo.

This book is primarily aimed at students and lecturers of Romanticism and social history. With the bicentenary of the massacre in 2019 and Mike Leigh’s forthcoming film, I envisage the potential for a wider readership of people interested in learning more about one of the most seminal events in English history.

A quarter of all casualties at Peterloo were women, even though they comprised only 12% of those present. This apparent victimisation of women by the Manchester Yeomanry Cavalry resulted in the widespread use of the motif of mother and child across a range of poems, other print media and cultural artefacts produced in response to Peterloo, leading to an intensification of impact rather than a dilution through repetition. The introduction traces the involvement of female reformers, particularly in the North West and their representation in graphic satire. Even though this section comprises only eight poems, the trope of woman and child as victims is present in many of the other poems in this collection as well as newspaper articles, graphic satire and other artefacts, resulting in a powerful discourse due to the sense of collectivity engendered by its repeated use. The introduction provides examples of how the representations of Peterloo depicted women and children, illustrating that the poems should be read alongside the caricatures of George Cruikshank and images printed on handkerchiefs, illustrated here by the work of John Slack, and pottery in order to fully understand the power and resonance of this single trope.

in Ballads and songs of Peterloo

The words ‘liberty’ or ‘freedom’ feature in forty-three poems in this collection, indicative of the centrality of this theme to the radical discourse of the day. In an era of almost unprecedented repression and the curtailment of rights, working people wished to rid themselves of their chains and reclaim their lost liberties, as a way of asserting English nationalism in the face of a ‘foreign’ monarchy.

The twelve poems and songs in this section celebrate both the forthcoming return of liberty, presented as a goddess, and Henry Hunt as liberty’s human representative. The restoration of liberty as an end to slavery is a common trope within English radical discourse and poems often depict the radical patriot endeavouring to rescue his country from an imposed and unnatural tyranny and return it to its true state of liberty; however, this trope predates the era of revolution when such rhetoric was common currency and this section explores the prevalence of the theme of liberty in the mid-eighteenth century and the subsequent influence of William Collins and Thomas Gray on the poems in this collection. The introduction also seeks to explain the lack of references to the transatlantic slave trade in these poems at a time when the issue of rights was at the fore. It includes poems written by Samuel Bamford and the Spencean Robert Wedderburn.

in Ballads and songs of Peterloo
Abstract only

This chapter begins by outlining the events leading up to the Peterloo Massacre on 16th August 1819 and its immediate aftermath with a particular focus on the response in the radical and loyalist press. By combining eye-witness accounts with contemporaneous reporting, the significance of Peterloo at the time can clearly be recognised. This chapter then focuses on the radical press, both in the 1790s, including Thomas Spence’s Pigs’ Meat and the 1810s, including the Manchester Observer, Medusa, Wooler’s Black Dwarf, Hunt’s Examiner and Carlile’s Republican, The Cap of Liberty, The Theological and Political Comet and The Briton, in which many of the ballads and songs were printed. Finally, this introduction discusses the place of the broadside ballad in vernacular culture from the sixteenth to the early nineteenth century and the appropriation of it by antiquarians in the eighteenth century.

in Ballads and songs of Peterloo

This section begins by briefly examining the historical provenance of the poetic trope of awakening and its significance within radical culture prior to Peterloo, as well as those poems and songs written in the immediate aftermath of the massacre, thereby highlighting the intertextual dialogue between the poems which is illustrated not only by an ideological unity but also by the commonality of motifs, forms, styles and even tunes. Shelley’s Masque of Anarchy provides a well-known example of this trope and is used in the introduction to this section as an illustration of how radical poems and songs in the Romantic period utilised revolutionary discourse dating back to the sixteenth century. The section comprises ten poems which are exhortatory ballads or apostrophes. At times of national crisis, poets have called on their readers to ‘arise’ and awaken’, often drawing on those past events to prove that, if England could get rid of two kings, it could certainly get rid of a third.

in Ballads and songs of Peterloo

This is the longest section in the book and comprises seventeen poems, many of which use satire not only to delight a sympathetic readership but also as a way of demonstrating defiance and voicing outrage at the actions of the authorities both during and after Peterloo. The introduction explores how writers in the Romantic period, from the full range of the cultural spectrum, used satire as a form of cultural defiance and challenge to authority at a time when any form of opposition was deemed seditious. Another theme evident is that of chivalry, a contentious issue during the eighteenth century with its revival by conservatives such as Edmund Burke fuelling a radical counter-revival focussed on a new age of political chivalry. As a consequence, the language and symbolism of chivalry was adopted by both conservatives and radicals in support of their cause. The Manchester Yeomanry Cavalry is the target of many of thesatirical poems in this section, alongside the detested politicans, Lords Castlereagh and Sidmouth and the Manchester Magistrate, Reverend Ethelstone. It includes poems written by the radical writers, Robert Shorter and Allen Davenport.

in Ballads and songs of Peterloo

Radicalism and nationalism would appear to be unlikely bedfellows, given that they tend to be placed on opposite ends of the political spectrum; yet this section demonstrates how many of the radical poems and songs written after Peterloo are underpinned by a radical English nationalism with poets making clear distinction between the un-English characteristics of a tyrannical state and monarchy and the true English patriot fighting for lost freedoms. Although the ideology of nationalism emerged in the revolutionary fervour of the late eighteenth century, this section establishes the nature of English radical nationalism and how the championing of English national identity has resonances with the republicanism of the English Revolution and late seventeenth century, the heroes and martyrs of which, particularly John Hampden, Algernon Sidney and William Russell, were a regular presence in the radical press. Key to English national identity is the myth of the Norman yoke and the yearning for the restoration of lost rights, references to which permeate the eleven poems in this section.

in Ballads and songs of Peterloo

The sixteen ballads and songs within this section fall into two camps: elegy and remembrance. Whilst a central feature of elegiac poetry is the way in which it remembers or memorialises the dead, a poem which is one of remembrance is not necessarily an elegy. Several of the songs herein use the date of Peterloo as a temporal marker – with an eye both on the contemporaneous reader or audience and the future reader. Included in this section are broadside ballads by Michael Wilson and elegies by Samuel Bamford and Peter Pindar.

These songs display a self-awareness in their significance in marking the moment for posterity and in their attempts to reach an audience beyond Manchester and ensure that the public knew what had happened on 16th August as well as preserving the event in English vernacular culture. It is also a quest for ownership of the narrative of the day; the speed with which so many of these songs were written and published not only suggests the ferocity of emotions surrounding events but also the need to exert some control over the way in which they were represented.

in Ballads and songs of Peterloo