Britain & Ireland

What was it about industrialisation that led to the emergence of a woman’s movement in Victorian Britain? Why do we see so many people fighting for so many rights and liberties in this period and what are the origins of some of the issues we still campaign on today? This section includes our major series on Social and Political Change in the UK from 1800 to the present day. There are also articles and podcasts on the often violent relationship between England and Ireland during this period and England’s changing relationship with Scotland and Wales. Read more

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  • The Reformed Electoral System in Great Britain, 1832-1914

    Article

    The struggle for parliamentary reform between 1830 and 1832 has long been regarded as one of the decisive battles of British political history. The Tories lamented that the passage of the Reform Bill meant the destruction of the constitution. Middle class Radicals welcomed the Reform Bill as the instrument that...

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  • The Oxford Movement and Anglican Ritualism

    Article

    The English Reformation of the Sixteenth century had been a compromise, both politically and theologically. The administrative framework of the medieval church, with its system of church courts, private patronage, pluralism, the social and financial gulf between the lower and higher clergy, its inadequacy of clerical education and its hierarchical...

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  • Cartoons and the historian

    Article

    Many historical books contain cartoons, but in most cases these are little more than a relief from the text, and do not make any point of substance which is not made elsewhere. Political cartoons should be regarded as much more than that. They are an important historical source which often...

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  • Catch me if you can: Trevithik vs. Stephenson

    Article

    Richard Trevithick & George Stephenson: a twenty firstcentury ReassessmentTwo hundred years ago, a remarkable event took place in London. At the instigation of Richard Trevithick, engineer, polymath and inventor - who many regard as the greatest Cornishman ever - an elliptical circuit of cast iron rail was laid out on...

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  • A sense of occasion

    Article

    It is appropriate, in this bicentenary year of Mendelssohn's birth, to remember a great day in Birmingham's musical and social calendar. A day when the composer's Oratorio, Elijah, especially commissioned for the city's 1846 Triennial Festival to raise money for the Children's Hospital, was first performed in the newly refurbished Town...

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  • Polychronicon 136: Interpreting the Beatles

    Article

    ‘The Beatles were history-makers from the start,' proclaimed the liner notes for the band's first LP in March 1963. It was a bold claim to make on behalf of a beat combo with one charttopping single, but the Beatles' subsequent impact on 1960s culture put their historical importance (if not...

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  • 'The end of all existence is debarred me': Disraeli's depression 1826-30

    Article

    During the years from 1826 to 1830 Benjamin Disraeli went through the slough of despond. His first major biographer,William Flavelle Monypenny, observed the ‘clouds of despondency which were now settling upon Disraeli's mind'. In his magisterial life of the great tory leader Robert Blake commented that ‘after completing Part II...

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  • Sir Francis Fletcher Vane, anti-militarist: The great boy scout schism of 1909

    Article

    Sir Francis Patrick Fletcher Vane, fifth baronet (1861-1934), a man of wideranging but seemingly contradictory passions and interests, was an idealistic but also hard-working aristocrat who played a major role in shaping the early Boy Scout movement in London. While the name of the founder of the Boy Scouts, Robert...

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  • What did you do in The Great War? A family mystery explored

    Article

    Research into family history is well-known as likely to dig up some uncomfortable evidence. Nearly every family has had its bastards; nearly every generation has had someone on poor relief. We had both. But more troubling was my recent suspicion that a hundred or so years ago not one but two...

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  • The snobbery of chronology: In defence of the generals on the Western Front

    Article

    Faced with the testimony of the huge casualty lists of the First World War, the desperate battles of attrition, the emotive evidence of the seemingly endless cemeteries and memorials, the moving war poetry of men such as Owen and Sassoon, and the memoirs of those who fought, it is not...

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  • The Northern Ireland Question 1886-1986

    Article

    The nature of the rights of majorities and minorities is one of the most intractable of the issues raised by the Northern Ireland question, especially since much depends on definitions. Ulster Protestants are a majority in that province but a minority in both Ireland and the United Kingdom, while Catholics,...

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  • Chartism

    Article

    It is not surprising that Chartism has attracted a great deal of interest from historians and students, for at no other period in British history, with the possible exception of the second and third decades of the twentieth century, has so much excitement and activity been aroused at the working-class...

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  • Polychronicon 129: Reinterpreting Peterloo

    Article

    The Peterloo massacre is one of the best-documented events in British history. It was the bloodiest political event of the 19th century on English soil. At St Peter's Fields in central Manchester on Monday 16 August 1819, a rally of around 60,000 people seeking parliamentary reform was violently dispersed by...

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  • The Englishness of George Orwell

    Article

    George Orwell is best known for Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty Four - one book an allegory of The Russian Revolution, and the other a science fiction dystopia about a globalized world. Before these two last works, the heart and soul of Orwell's writing had been about England and the...

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  • The People's Pension

    Article

    The People's Pensions: From Liberal Social Reforms to the Welfare State Why did the British get pensions when they did? What part did the great social surveys (Booth and Rowntree) play? Was there something rotten at the heart of Empire? What part did fears of a Red Peril play? Was...

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  • The Poor Law in Nineteenth-century England and Wales

    Article

    Variety rather than uniformity characterised the administration of poor relief in England and Wales, and at no period was this more apparent than in the decades before the national reform of the poor law in 1834. Unprecedented economic and social changes produced severe problems for those responsible for social welfare,...

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  • Fascist behind barbed wire: political internment without trial in wartime Britain

    Article

    In the spring and early summer of 1940, the British government carried out a programme of mass internment without trial. On 11 May, the first of thousands of ‘enemy aliens' were interned. Many of these internees were refugees from Nazi Germany, often Jews who had fled Germany in fear of...

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  • Child labour in eighteenth century London

    Article

    On 1 March 1771, thirteen year-old John Davies, a London charity school boy, left his home in Half MoonAlley and made his way to Bishopsgate Street. There he joined thirteen other boys of similar age who, like him, were new recruits of the Marine Society, a charity that sent poor...

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  • Hat on headstones

    Article

    The grave markers in churchyards and cemeteries are for the most part depressingly unimaginative both in their design and in their inscriptions but one occasionally meets with an attempt at striking an individual note, such as a sculpted depiction of a motor vehicle, or an animal, or the head-gear worn...

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  • The Chapel and the Nation

    Article

    The Noncoformitst chapel has played a crucial role in the history of the English and Welsh nations. When the great French historian Elie Halevy sought to explain the contrast between the turbulent history of his own country and the peaceful evolution of England in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries...

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