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. I argue that the ‘romance of the “Whig dungeon”’ constructed around O’Connor’s travails was also a significant factor of renewal in this instance.
I think if you refer to the Bible you would not have this child named Feargus O’Connor.
Naming children after radical political heroes was something of a tradition in England in the nineteenth century.2David Jones, Chartism and the Chartists, London, 1975, p. 24; Jutta Schwarzkopf, Women in the Chartist movement, Basingstoke, 1991, p. 124. 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 (pictured below) or exiled counterparts such as John Frost (also below) as a form of symbolic allegiance to these men and the radical-democratic cause.3For O’Connor see below. For Frost see David Williams, John Frost: a study in Chartism, Cardiff, 1939. For a general history of the movement see Malcolm Chase’s Chartism: a new history, Manchester, 2007.
As we’ll see below, it’s possible to identify these children at a national level and then map the districts where their births were registered. Doing so gives us a hitherto unexplored means of evaluating where Chartism was strong and weak in the early 1840s, supplementing existing, more traditional primary sources and interpretation. The first part of this essay looks at the political christening phenomenon from a national perspective while the second takes a much more localised, micro-historical approach by examining political christenings in a small community of handloom weavers resident in the parish of Sprowston near Norwich. Continue reading “Identifying and Mapping Chartist Children”
Remarkably, a pioneering photographic record survives of the culmination of one of the most significant days in English nineteenth-century political history—William Kilburn’s fascinating Daguerreotypes (Figures 1 and 2 above) of the Chartist mass meeting held at Kennington Common (now Kennington Park), London on 10 April 1848.1William Edward Kilburn, ‘The Chartist Meeting on Kennington Common, 10 April 1848’ [two Daguerreotypes], Royal Collection Trust, RCIN 2932484 and RCIN 2932482. 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.2See, for example, David Goodway, London Chartism, Cambridge, 1982, pp. 141–42. Continue reading “William Kilburn’s 1848 Chartist Daguerreotypes”