Disorder and stability in the United Kingdom

1820 is about much more than a single year. Integrating in detail the experiences of both Britain and Ireland, this book provides a compelling narrative and analysis of the United Kingdom in a year of European revolution. The year 1820 was a year of political dislocation unparalleled in peace time, but the gravity of the situation has been obscured for four main reasons. First, the dominant historical narrative of the United Kingdom in the early nineteenth century has remained so English-centred that Ireland only begins to intrude upon it in the mid-1840s, and Scotland scarcely at all. Second, Peterloo has over-determined the interpretation of the period. The third reason why events that year are misinterpreted or ignored is that the Government itself actively sought to efface the challenges confronting it. To do otherwise would have jeopardised its survival in a year that combined a general election, a constitutional crisis, a seemingly irreparable rift with the monarch, and a surge of radicalism both within and beyond Parliament. The fourth reason why the true significance of events in 1820 has been obscured derives from the late-twentieth century's preoccupation with the Queen Caroline affair. From the early 1980s, increasingly gender-aware scholarship made the second half of 1820 one of the most intensively investigated six months in modern British history.

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