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The newly digitised Manchester Observer (1818–22) was England’s leading radical newspaper at the time of the Peterloo meeting of August 1819, in which it played a central role. For a time it enjoyed the highest circulation of any provincial newspaper, holding a position comparable to that of the Chartist Northern Star twenty years later and pioneering dual publication in Manchester and London. Its columns provide insights into Manchester’s notoriously secretive local government and policing and into the labour and radical movements of its turbulent times. Rich materials in the Home Office papers in the National Archives reveal much about the relationship between radicals in London and in the provinces, and show how local magistrates conspired with government to hound the radical press in the north as prosecutions in London ran into trouble. This article also sheds new light on the founding of the Manchester Guardian, which endured as the Observer’s successor more by avoiding its disasters than by following its example. Despite the imprisonment of four of its main editors and proprietors the Manchester Observer battled on for five years before sinking in calmer water for lack of news.
This book is a major study of England's biggest and best-known witch trial, which took place in 1612, when ten witches were arraigned and hanged in the village of Pendle in Lancashire. In it, 11 experts from a variety of fields offer surveys of these events and their meanings for contemporaries, for later generations, and for the present day. Chapters look at the politics and ideology of witch-hunting, the conduct of the trial, the social and economic contexts, the religious background, and the local and family details of the episode.
In late eighteenth and early nineteenth-century England, politics was often conceived in theatrical terms. This chapter surveys the landscape of political melodrama in England during the age of revolution. It uses the reports of spies and informers in the Home Office papers to demonstrate that in popular radical circles the act of rebellion itself was expected to work as a kind of melodrama, simultaneously exposing the corruption and artifice of government and rousing the masses to climactic confrontation with the dark powers of the state. Melodramatic language used by radical speakers to rally crowds corresponded to strategies of petition, remonstrance and ulterior measures radicals developed in the winter of 1816-17 and enacted in the Spa Fields meetings, the Manchester rising and the Pentridge rebellion. At a crucial point, the radical Black Dwarf reprinted Southey’s suppressed play Wat Tyler to provide a model for dramatic political action. This chapter argues for a direct relationship between this political moment and the influence of the popular theatre, particularly melodrama.