The Romance of the ‘Whig Dungeon’


This long essay is an updated chapter from my PhD thesis (University of New England, 2000). It examines the rhetoric and symbolism of the radical propaganda mobilised around Char­tist leader Feargus O’Con­nor at his trial for seditious libel at York in 1840, his imprisonment at York Castle and the extensive celebrations that followed his release from prison (dressed in a fustian suit) in 1841. Chartism’s political fortunes traditionally have been attributed to material deprivation and, more recently, the first revival of the movement in 1841–42 to the organisational innovation that accompanied the formation of the National Charter Association in 1840.

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Identifying and Mapping Chartist Children

I think if you refer to the Bible you would not have this child named Feargus O’Connor.

Rev. Henry Banfather, baptism ceremony of Hannah Feargus O’Connor Steward, Sprowston, 1841.

Naming children after radical political heroes was something of a tradition in England in the nineteenth century. In particular, during the early 1840s thousands of working-class parents gave their children the names of imprisoned Chartist leaders such as Feargus O’Connor or exiled counterparts such as John Frost as a form of symbolic allegiance to these men and the radical-democratic cause.

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William Kilburn’s 1848 Chartist Daguerreotypes


Remarkably, a pioneering photographic record survives of the culmination of one of the most significant days in England’s nineteenth-century political history—William Kilburn’s fascinating Daguerreotypes (Figures 1 and 2) of the Chartist mass meeting held at Kennington Common (now Kennington Park), London on 10 April 1848. Among the earliest photographs of a crowd, these historic images of a demonstration widely feared of precipitating insurrection have received occasional attention from scholars since they were rediscovered in the Royal Collection in the late 1970s; however, surprisingly little detailed analysis has been published to date.

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