Short EV Account: The Press Fight Back

In another of our Short Accounts, Research Assistant Emma Varley explores a rather amusing (if unreliable) account of an incident involving an angry candidate, a printer skilled in self-defence, and a thorough dousing in black ink…

Slander, sensationalism, and general mockery are part and parcel of election politics. One need only look to the numerous cartoons depicting an exaggerated version of an orange-skinned, toupee-wearing former television star which continue to proliferate in nearly every newspaper across the globe. Opposing candidates, party members, and journalists are always on the lookout for the next opportunity to mock their competition, and it is all the better when this ammunition is handed to them by the opposition themselves. Continue reading “Short EV Account: The Press Fight Back”

Two Sides of the Coin: Bribery and Corruption in the 1852 Election

Intimidation and violence could be used as tools of electoral corruption, but there were other means at the disposal of candidates.  Research Assistant Sam Holden looks at one 1852 newspaper editorial and what it can tell us about the carrot and stick in mid-Victorian elections:

In 1852 a senior Government member was directly linked to a plot offering money for votes in Derby, while landlords demanded more than just rent from their tenants. An editorial carried by the Londonderry Times of 29 July 1852 lamented the corrupt state of British politics.

Elections during this period were particularly susceptible to “undue influence”. Continue reading “Two Sides of the Coin: Bribery and Corruption in the 1852 Election”

Electoral Violence in Blackburn, 1868: The Politicisation of a Death

Election violence was seldom simple or isolated; it could be the result of a complex and interlinked chain of events, across multiple elections and involving themes which included class, religion, and nationality.  In this post, David Hughes explores one such richly complex event:

In November 1868, the Lancashire town of Blackburn was the site of intense electoral activity. The municipal elections, in which all six wards were contested, were held on Monday 2nd November. The borough parliamentary election followed on 16th November then, on the following day, the nominations for the newly created county seat of North East Lancashire. All three of these elections were accompanied by violence, with the most serious occurring, somewhat unusually, during the municipal elections – indeed, a man died two days after the municipal elections from injuries sustained at that contest. Soon, this death was politicised by both parties when alleged death threats were made against the Tory candidates. Continue reading “Electoral Violence in Blackburn, 1868: The Politicisation of a Death”

Short EV Account: Death at Nuneaton, 1832

Aside from more analytical posts, the Causes and Consequences of Electoral Violence project will also be posting short EV Accounts – brief summaries of incidents of electoral violence gleaned from single (and often biased) newspaper reports.  Our first EV Account focuses on an election death during the Warwickshire contest of 1832-33, and the editorial line which it provoked:

During the 1832-33 county election for Warwickshire, at the polling place of Nuneaton, a disturbance took place during the polling, though the article’s author asserts that it was of no particular seriousness. Not convinced of this, however, the local Magistrates called in the military to quell the unrest.  This action took place (again, asserted by the author) long after any breach of the peace had long since passed. While the crowd was ‘quietly proceeding in the constitutional exercise of their right’, the military force attacked – several people were said to have been wounded, and one elderly person was killed.

Continue reading “Short EV Account: Death at Nuneaton, 1832”

‘Rough Rollicking Enthusiasm’: Relationships Between Election Violence and the Restricted Franchise

Our project covers not one period, but many – at different points between 1832 and 1914, different proportions of the adult male populace were entitled to the vote, as successive Reform Acts expanded the franchise.  Towards the end, electoral violence by women seeking the vote is also evident. Research Assistant Genevieve Johnson explores the rather biased editorial line of an 1865 electoral violence report, one which suggests a close link between violence and exclusion from the franchise:

In nineteenth-century England and Wales, a wide and confusing variety of overlapping factors could prompt electoral violence, from the displaying of party colours to the utilisation of hired roughs as political weapons. Even more varied was the type of violence, which could range from brutal murders to the throwing of cabbages and herring. One common factor amongst many of the electoral events to be found in nineteenth-century newspapers was the type of person generally found in violent mobs. In many (if not most) cases across the decades, they were largely made up of working-class men and boys – labourers of various types, and “paupers”. In other words, the disenfranchised. Continue reading “‘Rough Rollicking Enthusiasm’: Relationships Between Election Violence and the Restricted Franchise”

Elections, Riots, and Election Riots: Whittlesey

The dismantling and distribution of wood from the hustings was a hallowed tradition in many constituencies – but not always an accepted one.  Project Research Assistant Elise Boothroyd explores one such instance of the practice in which official intransigence provoked a serious incident of election violence:

Much of the electoral violence reported in articles from nineteenth-century newspapers is attributed to causes immediately relevant to elections, including disagreements between electors, electors’ disapproval of candidates, or a more general desire to create trouble and disturb the political process. In an article describing events in Whittlesey in April 1857, however, there is no specific mention of political feeling in favour of, or against, any party, nor about the election more generally. Indeed, 1857 was reputed to be one of the quieter Victorian General Elections. Yet, still a riot occurred. The cause? According to one newspaper report, the townsfolk of Whittlesey decided that they fancied the wood from the hustings platform, where candidates gave their nomination speeches, for their personal use. Having taken the wood by force, a conflict with the police ensued. Continue reading “Elections, Riots, and Election Riots: Whittlesey”

Tragic Election Death at Cheltenham

The carnival atmosphere of Victorian elections was often characterised by visible party colours and the presence of music. This atmosphere was thought by many to contribute to the ‘excitement’ of participants and bystanders – with occasionally terrible consequences. In this blog post, Paul Reynolds, one of our Project’s Research Assistants, shares his summary and analysis of a particularly tragic case of election violence involving both colour and music:

On the evening of the 12th of July 1865, in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, William Lynes, a ‘labouring man’ who worked as a messenger for the Liberal candidate Colonel Francis Berkeley, was wandering down the High-Street with another messenger called Fitts. Passing them along the street came a band, playing the Scottish ‘The Bonnets of Blue’, and Lynes piped up with a hearty ‘Hurrah for the Bonnets of Yellow’, as yellow was the Liberal colour.

Hogarth’s Enraged Musician (1741) Continue reading “Tragic Election Death at Cheltenham”

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”

“A Disgraceful Riot”: Intriguing Links between Irish Politics and a Cornish Village

Much of the election violence which plagued the UK in the nineteenth century was connected in various ways to Ireland and Irish-related policy issues; in this blog post, Zara Kesterton, one of our Project’s Research Assistants, discusses her own surprise at finding such links in seemingly-unlikely places:

Reading through newspapers for incidences of election violence provides a fascinating insight into the everyday preoccupations of those living in the 19th and early 20th centuries. During the 1886 election, reports of disturbances linked to the Irish Home Rule movement featured prominently in newspapers across Great Britain. Continue reading ““A Disgraceful Riot”: Intriguing Links between Irish Politics and a Cornish Village”