To Henry Hunt, Esq., as chairman of the meeting assembled in St. Peter’s Field, Manchester, sixteenth day of August, 1819, and to the female Reformers of Manchester and the adjacent towns who were exposed to and suffered from the wanton and fiendish attack made on them by that brutal armed force, the Manchester and Cheshire Yeomanry Cavalry, this plate is dedicated by their fellow labourer, Richard Carlile. Manchester Libraries.


Australians are not taught about Chartism. In order to counter this neglect and understanding that many people prefer history not in a plain brown paper wrapping but encased in a ‘silvered wrapping of entertainment’, events and facts were researched, then supplemented with relevant art forms and arranged in a form suitable for a staged show. By utilising format and content akin to Chartist meetings held in 1838-48, material has been assembled for a show comprised of scripted facts, songs, dances, images and cartoons using a format labelled ‘Folk Doco’ and named ‘When Democracy Danced in Workers’ Boots’.

Next year ‘Magda Productions‘, a performing Arts group based in Brisbane will be staging the showMagda’s Productions have given many successful performances of my earlier show,  ‘Dames & Dare-devils for Democracy’ in BrisbaneCOVID permitting, the two shows linked by the real-life character of Emma Millerthe suffragist whose life story introduced me to Chartism may undertake a short tour. 

This is the song I wrote as an overture for ‘When Democracy Danced in Workers’ Boots’ with booted tap dance interludes instead of a chorus: 


Workers wearing working boots, trodden down through centuries,         

Rebels wearing working boots stepping up through time,                               

Fired by Tom Paine’s ‘Commonsense’ and the works of Thomas Spence,

Tommy Muir caused offence in the name of Justice. 

Stepped up to dance, stepped up to dance, stepped up to dance for Justice.

                     ( Booted Tap- Dance Interlude ) 

Need for action in their bones, for a changing century. 

Call of freedom in their tones, echoing through time. 

Asked of woman and of man ‘Pass the torch on when y’ can’,

Leading to a Chartist Plan in the name of Justice. 

Stepped up to dance, stepped up to dance, stepped up to dance for Justice. 

                     ( Booted Tap- Dance Interlude) 

In the convict boats and chains, victims of the century,  

Radicals and Chartists came, serving years of time, 

Starry skies Down-under blazed where William Cuffay’s work was praised,  

Where Eureka’s flag was raised, raised by Chartist Justice.  

Raised up to dance, raised up to dance, raised up to dance for justice.                 

( Booted Tap- Dance Interlude)


After a long journey of research and creation, some questions remain: 

Why is there a paucity of documentation and discourse on Chartism in Australia? 

For how long will our history curriculums continue to be short-changed on reality? 

This missing Chartist history is linked to another missed history, the history of the 

Australian indigenous peoples and the effect of colonisation on their lives and their rights.  

These two missed histories are linked, because without the growth of democracy in Australia, recognition of the gross injustice inflicted on, and negligence of indigenous people could not have begun to be addressed, even though there is still a long way to go. The ‘Uluru Statement from the Heart’ could lead us. 

There is a fragile fabric of pseudo civilisation that covers shaky spines, mediocre minds, and hardened hearts. It could be shed, and instead, wearing workers’ boots and stepping in the path of Chartists, knowing that they gave us a strong foundation for Democracy, we could see their heritage valued as part of our national identity. Hopefully the Australian community can repay the Chartists by electing people who share and practise such ideals.

The closing song in the new show is John Warner’s fine song ‘Bring Out the Banners’; a suitable line to end this article is:

                             ’How dare we lose what they have won?’


In pursuing this research towards the creation of her ‘folk doco’, Phyl consulted a wide variety of standard and other sources. She also spoke with many people across the country.



Tony Moore, Death or Liberty: rebels and radicals transported 1788 -1868

Peter Fitzsimons, Eureka: the unfinished revolution

Anne Henderson, Joseph Lyons: the peoples Prime Minister

Judith Brett, The enigmatic Mr Deakin

Judith Brett, From secret ballot to democracy sausage

K S Inglis, This is the ABC

Hard copies

Isobel Downing, Ballarat Reform League inc. (computer printout)

John Molony, Eureka and the prerogative of the people

Martin Hoyle, William Cuffay: the life and times of a Chartist leader  

Bob O’Brien, Massacre at Eureka: the untold story

Elizabeth Morrison, David Syme: a man of the Age

Other Media

Tasmanian Grassroots Union Choir, Cuffay and the brother slaves – CD

Internet searches on Chartist convicts, eight-hour day, shearers strike, Labor movement, miller, Federation, Henry Parkes …



Edward Boyle, Roger Lockyer, ‘Chartism’ (seminar studies) 

Thomas Carlyle, Chartism

Julius West, A history of the chartist movement

Thomas Paine, The rights of man (illustrated)

Hard copies

James Epstein, The lion of freedom: Feargus O’Connor and the Chartist Movement

Mike Leigh, Peterloo

Other Media 

Radical Tea Towel Co (UK), Tea towel – Six points of the people’s charter

The life and struggles of William Lovett, facsmile of original, British Library DVD

Numerous internet searches


TEN LINKS IN A CHARTIST CHAIN – A String of ‘Democracy Sausages’. Part 3

To Henry Hunt, Esq., as chairman of the meeting assembled in St. Peter’s Field, Manchester, sixteenth day of August, 1819, and to the female Reformers of Manchester and the adjacent towns who were exposed to and suffered from the wanton and fiendish attack made on them by that brutal armed force, the Manchester and Cheshire Yeomanry Cavalry, this plate is dedicated by their fellow labourer, Richard Carlile. Manchester Libraries.


Ten links to Chartism reveal how the movement developed in England from 1774 and how its ideas percolated through the Australian population from 1850 to positively influence the political development of democracy in this country.  


A black beginning from slave -picked cotton which was shipped from America, woven and spun in the ‘Dark Satanic Mills’ of Manchester. There, adults and children as young as twelve slaved for 12-14 hours a day in factories filled with flying fragments of cotton that choked their lungs and brought death. 


Years of exploitation of workers by the new middle-class of mill owners saw thousands of workers and their families led by Henry Hunt gather for a picnic protest in 1819 on St Peters’ Field in Manchester. Cut down by sword wielding Hussars on horseback supported by armed infantry in hundreds and bombarded by cannon-fire. Several people were killed and 600 injured including women and children. Also called the ‘Massacre of Peterloo’. 


By 1838 the writings of Thomas Paine found a readership willing to support reform, willing to ‘dance in workers boots’ and create a nationwide movement of millions of British people which became the Chartist Movement. Various flags were used, including the Peterloo Skelmanthorpe Flag of brown and the Chartist Welsh Tricolour.

By 1850 at least 103 Chartists, now labelled seditionists, had been transported to Australia. Among them was Thomas Muir, a Scottish radical with a hankering for democratic reform. In 1793 he was sentenced for sedition and transported to New South Wales for 14 years. 

William Cuffay was the son of a slave and an early stand-up comic who gained fame for reforms made, especially in Tasmania. With other Chartists he was transported in 1850 on the ship Adelaide

Zephaniah WilliamsWelsh coal miner and Chartist campaigner, was one of the leaders of the Newport Rising of 1839. Found guilty of high treason, he was condemned to death, but his sentence was commuted to life imprisonment in Tasmania. Eventually he was pardoned, and his discovery of coal on that island earned him a fortune 

In his book Death or Liberty: Rebels and Radicals Transported to Australia 1788 – 1868, Anthony (Tony) Moore says Australia is often called a Chartist’s democracy because many Chartist leaders were transported here.

Gold fever lured free settler Chartists to join convicted Chartists in Australia. Moral and Physical Chartists combined with miners, and in their tens of thousands protested the harsh licensing Laws in ‘Monster Meetings’ along the Gold Route from Melbourne to Bendigo, the bloodless Bendigo Agitation of 1853  and eventually the bloody battle at Eureka Stockade in 1854. Peter FitzSimons in his book Eureka – The Unfinished Rebellion, wrote of Chartism in Britain, and pointed out that the same ideas were present on the goldfields, with a republican slant through ‘The Ballarat Reform League’As members of the Reform League, George Black and Henry Holyoake had both been involved with Chartism in England. They promoted radical ideas through two newspapers which were circulated on the goldfields, The Gold-Diggers’ Advocate owned by George Black and The Diggers’ Advocate printed by Ebenezer Syme, who later owned The Age. Such men as these and Ebenezer’s brother David, who also later owned The Age, did not just want to chronicle history they wanted to help make it.


John Stuart Mill described Chartism as ‘the victory of the vanquished’. A saying that could be applied as well to the cause won at Eureka. The spirit of solidarity and the desire for justice was carried over from Eureka to strikes by stonemasons in a major effort to gain an Eight-Hour Day which, when won in 1856, was the first such legislation in the world. Galloway and Stevenmasons who led the push were once Chartists. A further boost to trade unions came in 1891 when striking shearers in Queensland flew the Eureka flag. Such action led eventually to the formation of the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) in 1927. 


Henry  Parkes, known to history as ‘The Father of Federation’, was once a Chartist sympathiser, ‘a people’s man ‘ who believed that ‘in Australia men would not be treated like brutes while alive, nor buried like dogs when dead.’ He knew that ‘Unity Is Strength.’ He did not live to see it, but in 1901 the colonies of Australia federated as the Commonwealth of Australia’. The Federation Referendum launched in 1898-1900 had support in Western Australia from Chartist influenced  women who already had the vote there. As many others in WA were reluctant to join the Federation it is likely the women’s vote influenced the result. In 1902 all white women in Australia were awarded the right to vote and stand for Federal Parliament. Achieved without use of violence or use of the term ‘suffragette’, they came with big hearts and big hats. Regretfully, Indigenous people had to wait until 1962 for their vote. 

By 1848 Chartism, disunited by differences between Lovett and O’Connor, was gone as a movement, but not as an idea. Chartist ideas found new life in Fabianism, the political belief that socialism can be introduced by gradual reform rather than by revolution. By 1901 various state groups of people aligned to Fabian Societies had called themselves Labour parties. By 1910 the world first for such parties in power was a Labor Partyspelt so by King O’Malley an American/Canadian immigrant MP and spelling reformer. Another world -first. 

In 1924 Alfred Deakin, our second Prime Minister, and his colleague Digby Denham united to have a law passed that made voting compulsory. This added one of the most stabilising factors of our constitutional democracy. They were influenced and supported by brothers Ebenezer and David Syme who had helped launch and edit the Diggers Advocate in Ballarat, who had stood by the miners and who both, at different times, became owners of The Age in Melbourne. 

The last link, born of radio waves and electrons, is our national broadcaster, the Australian Broadcasting Corporationa link that aims to provide clearly stated information through accurate and unbiased journalism. It was established in 1929 and first advocated by Joseph Lyons, who was a Fabian sympathiser and Prime minister of Australia from 1932 to 1939. Joseph had given his wife, Dame Enid Lyonsour first woman elected to Federal Parliament, a book by Fabian instigators and historians Beatrice & Sydney Webb. 

Not as direct a link as being a Chartist, but still a Chartist link. A link to a stable democracy that right-wing media and conservative politicians are trying to break today. If this link is lost Australia will be deprived of a stabilising national treasure that supplies quality journalism, nationwide emergency assistance, educational material for all ages, and support for Arts of multiple shades. 

In the next post find out the results of this quest and the range of sources used …


To Henry Hunt, Esq., as chairman of the meeting assembled in St. Peter’s Field, Manchester, sixteenth day of August, 1819, and to the female Reformers of Manchester and the adjacent towns who were exposed to and suffered from the wanton and fiendish attack made on them by that brutal armed force, the Manchester and Cheshire Yeomanry Cavalry, this plate is dedicated by their fellow labourer, Richard Carlile. Manchester Libraries.

Phyl Lobl describes herself as a ‘cultural maintenance worker’. This is an apt description of a long life as a singer, songwriter, teacher and constant advocate for justice, equality and common decency. In recent years, Phyl has researched and written musical stage presentations, or ‘folk docos’ as she calls them, on radical themes. The first, ‘Dames and Dare-devils for Democracy’, debuted at the National Folk Festival in 2013 and has been performed several times since. The second show, ‘When Democracy Danced in Workers’ Boots’, concerns the influence of the Chartist movement in the development of Australian democracy.

In this series of posts, Phyl describes her research behind the latest show and makes a passionate case for the largely unacknowledged role of Chartist ideals in events and institutions such as the Eureka Stockade, Federation, the Australian trade union and Labor movements, compulsory voting and the existence of the national broadcaster, the ABC.

Phyl’s creative work can be found https://phyllobl.net



                                         by Phyl Lobl – Cultural Maintenance Worker 

This is history, a missed history, almost a mystery. 

It is also a quest that began with a question….this question

Does Australian Democracy have more chance of stability than others worldwide?   

No form of government is perfect because people who make up communities and countries are not perfect. Democracies run by people that for the most part are ‘reasonable’, meaning ‘able to reason’, seem to deliver fairness and freedom levels most people say they want, yet many people in nominal democracies have been left bereft, places where the value of democracy has been damaged and doubted. 

Disturbed by watching the shattering of America’s democratic ideals as they were ‘Trumped’, my mind nurtured a hunch. The hunch became a quest with the aim to identify the main participants in Chartism’s role in Australia and to document and verify Chartist actions. The quest led to discovery of historic happenings which, when stretched along a time-line, made links in a chain – ‘A Chartist Chain To Democracy Down-Under’.

The quest findings gave credibility to the claim that Australian Democracy can remain stable and able to function more fairly than those in many other countries, including the USA and the UK. This mindset was a product of the harshness of the convict culture in Australia. Australians used independence of thought and will to achieve some political world firsts and some close to world firsts. Australia became a leading country in realising and bringing into law the first five of Chartism’s six points. 


Chartism was a movement that supported the principles of a political party developed in England  (1838-48). A political movement which supported six main points set out in a document called ‘The People’s Charter’ which was written by William Lovett and Francis Place through their organization, the London Working Men’s Association (LWMA). The six points of the Charter were:

  1. All men to have the vote. 
  2. Voting to take place by secret ballot. 
  3. Constituencies to be of equal size.
  4. Members of Parliament to be paid. 
  5. The property qualification for becoming a member to be abolished. 
  6. Parliamentary elections every year instead of every five years. 


The foundation for embarking on such a quest was laid by an experience of some years ago. Fellow folk-performers who taught history in Alice Springs explained that they could not teach Australian history in their restrained history curriculum because the children of Americans working at Pine Gap needed American history to gain entry to college. As Australian children had no such requirement it seems to have been perceived that Australian children had no need of Australian History. This situation and the attitude displayed is a regrettable part-answer as to why Australians have little knowledge and less curiosity about the past and its truth. Why they do not recognise how Australian Democracy developed and how it differs from other democracies. 

I had not known of Chartism until I researched the lives of Australian suffragists for a show 

I called ‘Dames and Dare-devils for Democracy’. I discovered that as a young girl in Northern England, Emma Miller who became a prominent suffragist in Queensland had attended Chartist meetings. A Thomas Paine quote was her motto:

‘The world is my country, all mankind are my brethren, to do good is my religion’.  

Thomas Paine, recognised as a radical in England, Europe and America, was inspired by the French Revolution. His thinking, writing and activism motivated the push for American independence from Britain in 1783 and helped foster the formation of the Chartist Movement established in Britain in 1838. 

The years of Chartism span the years known to historians as The Age of Enlightenment’, an intellectual, philosophical movement that dominated the world of ideas in Europe during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Ideas focussed on the supremacy of reason and the evidence of the senses was seen as the foremost source of knowledge and ideals such as liberty, tolerance, fraternity, constitutional government and separation of Church and State were promoted. Enlightenment ideas activated writers to express the need for Social Reform, which led to a strong push by working people and their supporters for the creation of democratic processes leading to Democratic Governments. Works inspired by these ideals were eagerly bought by thousands of people, distributed widely, and read aloud at taverns and meeting places. In particular favour were Commonsense and The Age of Reason by Thomas Paine. 

Fired by such impetus, Chartist groups spread from Northern England to most areas of the United Kingdom and beyond. With a quoted three million signatures on a giant scroll said to be close to six miles long, the Charter was eventually voted into legislation. But not before many Chartists were charged with sedition and gaoled for years, some were executed and some transported to Australia. Generations of workers and thinkers across multiple nations sacrificed much in order to gain social justice through the years encompassing the Age of Enlightenment, a time when George III was on the English throne, and Napoleon was in charge of France. 

In the next post find out who the Chartists were …



By Illustrated London News, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8007931


In rural west Wales, a woman known as ‘Rebecca’, together with her ‘daughters’, violently resisted paying toll fees. From 1839 to 1843, and sporadically for long after, gangs of mainly tenant farmers, dressed in women’s clothing and with blackened faces, responding to the call of a hunting horn, attacked and often destroyed toll booths and other infrastructure on the many privately-owned toll roads. To get their produce to market, the farmer needed to pass back and forth along these roads and also traditionally collected lime from them to improve their soils. As well as the toll road issue, many Welsh farmers and those who depended on them for employment were experiencing hard times and the payment of tithes, or taxes, to the Anglican church, while most Welsh people were chapel-going Methodists or other ‘dissenters’.

‘Rebecca’, or just ‘Becca’, was the name of the mythical leader under which they united. ‘She’ was often mounted on a horse during the toll gate attacks, an acknowledgement of the connection between the Rebecca movement and the traditional custom of the Ceffyl Pren (wooden horse). This was a form of public humiliation of wrongdoers by a local community, involving the parading of the miscreant through a village tied to a wooden frame, or ‘horse’. A ‘jury’ and ‘Foreman’ of men dressed in women’s clothes and with blacked faces administered the ceffyl pren, which was used as the organisational structure for the Rebecca riots. The symbolism of the connection was clearly one of righting perceived wrongs.

As with many other forms of protest and revolt, threatening letters were often sent to those the rebels identified as the source of their problems. This one was addressed to the people of St Clears, Carmarthenshire, in December 1842:

Take Notice

I wish to give you notice especial to those which has sworn to be connstable in order to graspe Becca and her children but I can sure you that it will be to hard matter for Bowlin and company to finish the job that they began and that is to keep up the Gate at Llanengel and [?] gate. Now take this few lines as information for you to mind yourselves, you that had any conection with Bowlin Messrs M. C. Lics, Mr Thomas Blue Boar, all thine property in one night shall be in conflagration if they will not obey to this notice. And that to send them vagabons away wich you are favourable to. I alway like to be plain in all my engagement – is it a reasonable thing that they impose so must on the country only picking poor labours and farmers pockets, and you depend that all the Gates that are on these small roads shall be destroyed. I am willing for the gates on the Queens Road to stand it is a shamefull thing for us welchmen to have the sons of Henegust have a dominion over us. Do you not remember the long knives which Henegust hath invented to kill our fore fathers and you may depend that you shall recieve the same, if you will not give up, when I shall give you a visit and that shall be in a short time, and now I would give an order to leave the place before I will come, for, I do determin that I will have my way all through. As for the constable and the policemen, Becca her children heeds no more of them than the Grass-hopers which fly in the summer there are others which as marked with Becca, but they shall not be named now but in case they will not obey to this notice she shall call about them in a short time.

Faithfull to Death
with the county
Becca & children

Trwn [?]
Dec, 16th 1842

Sometimes serious violence occurred during these midnight visitations, though nothing on the scale promised in the letters that usually preceded them. William Rees, toll collector on Trevaughan Turnpike Gate described his visit from Rebecca and her daughters in August 1843:

… between one and two o’clock on Sunday morning last he was disturbed by a man knocking at his door who enquired the way to Llanvallteg Bridge, which he told him and that immediately afterwards he heard the sound of horses, when about twenty five or thirty men disguised, (having white frocks on and their heads tied on with coloured handkerchiefs under their chins) came to his house and compelled him by threats, pointing at the same time three Guns at his breast to deliver up his Books, which they carried off. The Books contained among other accounts, the names of several persons who had refused to pay toll at the said Gate, he is unable to identify any of them, but the person nearest to his house window rode a grey horse.

This was a typical Rebecca visitation. The wise toll keeper did as he was told and did not interfere if the rioters pulled down his toll booth. In this case, Rebecca and her daughters seem to have been mainly interested in removing evidence of those who had refused to pay their tolls and who would otherwise have been prosecuted.

The authorities mounted mostly ineffectual attempts to forcibly put the riots down. Eventually, the toll gate system and problems with the poor laws were modified and the general economy improved. Nevertheless, some Rebaccaites were imprisoned and others transported.

Later in the century, and even into the early twentieth century, the name Rebecca and similar tactics were used by those protesting against restricted fishing rights along inland streams.



Unknown author – http://www.ngfl-cymru.org.uk/vtc/rebecca_riots/eng/RebeccaRiots/
Punch cartoon from 1843 depicting events inspired by the Rebecca Riots of South Wales



National Archives, Rebecca letter, 16 December 1842 (HO 45/265 f1

National Archives, Statement of William Rees, toll collector, 15 August 1843 (HO 45/454 f.415)



Ned Ludd


The businessman who received the following note from Ned Ludd would have been in no doubt that the writer intended to do serious harm.

Mr H

at Bulwell


Sir if you do not pull don the Frames

or stop pay [in] Goods onely for work

extra work or m[ake] in Full fashon

my Companey will [vi]sit yr machines

for execution agai[nst] [y]ou–

Mr Bolton the Forfeit–

I visitd him–

Ned Lu[d]

Kings [illegible]

Nottinghm—Novembr 8 1811

It was one of many similar semi-literate threatening letters sent to factory owners and employers of weavers by Ned Ludd. The letter commands Mr H to stop paying his weavers in ‘truck’, meaning in poor quality goods instead of cash, one of the frequent complaints of the workers. Or else…

Another letter from a Nottinghamshire knitter was sent to Richard Dennis, farmer and framework knitter, in 1819:

Richad Denniss

If you keep that Rouge in you house Ned shall viset you and we shall be acpt too give you A little could led and you cattle too if you dont get shoot ove him very soon and Need will set you all on Fire And you Promess Need will send them too Hell and Hall ove you too and you sheep Ned will ham string And if you don thay will send me word in the course ove of day

March the 12


But Ludd, also sometimes titled ‘General Ludd’, as here, and ‘Captain Ludd’, did not exist. He was a mythical leader of a diffuse group of mainly northern English insurrectionaries angry at the threat to their livelihoods posed by the introduction of labour-saving machines into the framework knitting industry. ‘Luddites’, as they came to be known, formed clandestine groups who swore secret oaths and destroyed and damaged the feared new machines that were taking their jobs. The sabotage tactics of the Luddites failed, many were executed, imprisoned or transported. But their actions, and consequences, did bring their plight to the attention of the wider public.

In 1830, much the same situation, this time in agriculture, triggered the most serious rioting, mostly across southern England. Led by a ‘Captain Swing’, rural workers rose in large numbers to break threshing machines and to demand what they thought were their rights. They also said so in caustic correspondence, such as this note delivered to King’s College, Cambridge on December 8, 1830:

Dr Agnus

The college that thou holdest shalt be fired very shortly. Thou shalt here further from me when it is in flames.


Head Quarters

A more detailed and oddly polite letter detailing the rioters’ grievances arrived at the Goodwood estate of the Duke of Richmond in December 1830:

We beg to say that if the sentences of the men in kent & all others for rioting is not reduced to 3 months imprisonment & all those taken heairafter to 1 months ditto all the woods to a hedge stick on the duke of richmans estate with that of the other ministere [of] the crown lands magestrates constables &C engaged in takeing & triing the said men shall be all burnt up even to a furse bush but we promis faithfully if you comply with our request we will refrain from it all we want is Work & fair wages don’t think that the reward will induse our party to split we have all put our hands to the match so we cannot fear each other and are determind to carry on or have our starveing Contramen at liberty there is only 2 things to be done & then we shall have pease & plenty that is machinery put down and the Clergy paid out of the publick revenew and an income tax put on to take this burden of the farmer in lieu of the tithes’

swing 2 goodwood-mss-1446-fa18-backThese revolts were all put down with the ruthless force usually unleashed by the British establishment against those who dared challenge it. Rioters were perceived and presented as dangerous revolutionaries and criminals rather than starving workers. Some were shot, some hanged, many imprisoned and transported. Mechanisation of their livelihoods proceeded apace.

Neither Ned Ludd or Captain Swing existed. They were convenient fictions drawn from the traditions of underclass revolt stretching back to the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381 in which a shadowy character named ‘Jack Straw’ appeared. At least one of the rebels in this revolt took this name, but historians are uncertain if such a person ever existed. His name is certainly suspiciously folkloric!

To some extent, the threatening letters, the dressing up and the blackened faces of the rioters can be seen as part of the ‘theatre of protest’. This does not mean that the rioters’ issues were not genuine and serious, but that there was an underlying assumption that the societal ties between workers and their employees would deliver justice. Naïve as this seems, a ‘moral economy’ as historian E P Thompson famously perceived, underlay the economic transactions between workers and employers.

The tragedy of this perception by the rioters – weavers or farm labourers – was that it was no longer true (if it ever was in any effectual rather than symbolic sense). Their bosses had moved on from the traditions and assumptions that underlay the moral economy ideal and embraced the improving agrarian mode of capitalism. Now, workers were no longer essential parts of a rural community but simply one element in a broader, more predatory economy in which calculations were made on the basis of profit and loss and not any obligation that the better-off might once have had towards their less affluent neighbours.



Home Office archive (HO 42/118

The Nottingham Review 6 August 1819 – the sender of the letter had a grudge against the ‘Rouge’ mentioned

National Archives Catalogue ref: HO 52/6

‘Swing Riots letter’, 2 Dec 1830, West Sussex Record Office, Goodwood Mss 1446 fA18