Across The Spectrum: Party Colours, Election Violence, and the Tragic Case of William Mellor

In this post, Research Assistant Sam Holden explores an election fatality, and touches on the role played by party colours and other visible partisan symbols in election violence more generally:

Votes weren’t necessarily the only things being counted at Victorian elections. Unfortunately, occasionally there was also a body count.

Much like today, election periods provoked much excitement in the Victorian period. Allegiances were often ironclad, and rivalries fierce. In some instances, simply displaying party colours was an invitation to violence. This was one visible manifestation of what some have termed a ‘carnival’ atmosphere; some historians posit that this atmosphere was one of the main catalysts for elections which spilled over into lawlessness, rioting, and even killing. It’s often difficult to uncover the motivations behind different incidents, be they elite strategic manoeuvring or popular partisanship on the one hand, or adrenalin-fuelled excitement on the other.

Continue reading “Across The Spectrum: Party Colours, Election Violence, and the Tragic Case of William Mellor”

Victorian Election Violence and Newspaper Bias

In addition to other sources such as the Home Office Disturbance Book, one of our main sources for detecting election violence is newspaper reports.  These can be of immense value, but must always be taken with a pinch of salt…

One of our main aims is to discover the identity and intensity of partisan allegiances in Victorian electoral violence.  How much of the violence was down to groups or individuals who clashed because of opposing party loyalties?  What’s more, of these partisan-caused incidents, was any party or parties particularly likely to be the perpetrators or victims?  How did these trends vary geographically, and over time?

Continue reading “Victorian Election Violence and Newspaper Bias”

Reverend And The (Noise) Makers: A Mass Walkout

Religion played a prominent role in Victorian politics, and religious figures enjoyed a special (and precarious) position in relation to party politics.  In looking at a non-violent mass disruption which followed election property damage, Research Assistant Sam Holden explores the religious dimension to partisan rivalries:

Election violence generally involved damage to persons and/or property – the Causes and Consequences project also records the explicit and immediate threat of violence in order to examine events which never quite boiled over into outright violence. How such near-violent situations were resolved is, after all, indicative. The following event was never likely to descend into violence, but does illustrate that violence was merely one extreme in a spectrum of activity which encompassed remonstration, disobedience, and disruption.

On Friday 7 August 1847, the Liberals won the constituency of Taunton during a General Election. That Sunday, at St. Mary Magdalene Church, the Reverend Dr. Cottle was surprised to observe that there were over two hundred extra people in his congregation than was normal, many of whom he had never seen before. Continue reading “Reverend And The (Noise) Makers: A Mass Walkout”

Radical Rowdyism

Sophie Franklin, a Research Assistant on the Project, writes about an Edwardian Conservative poem which gives a revealing view of attitudes towards the disrupters of political meetings:

Five days before the General Election in January 1910, the Conservative bi-weekly Manchester Courier published a curious poem titled ‘Radical Rowdyism’. It begins with a challenge to those loud ‘Socialistic gang of interrupters’, the Radicals of the poem’s title, who cause disturbance during hustings. Using the term ‘Radical’ in a derogatory fashion had a long tradition behind it, describing in various instances Chartists, staunch Liberals, and boisterous non-electors in general. The first stanza claims that those making the most noise were in fact the most well-fed, hinting at a kind of “champagne Socialism”, an accusation which runs throughout the poem:

Continue reading “Radical Rowdyism”