History

Prehistory: Why is it so entrancing?

Circles without Class Ceilings

Why can prehistory be so entrancing?

Why do some people find prehistory so entrancing?
Why do they become so spellbound
When walking by, let’s say, a long barrow?
How do they become so transported in time and space?
What’s it all about?

Is it because a standing stone, a circle,
A tumulus, barrow, or whatever,
Demonstrates the fragility of knowledge,
The equivocal nature of understanding,
In a sense, the ‘negative capability’ of John Keats:
Being conscious, simultaneously,
Of knowing and yet not knowing?
The recognition that sometimes any presumption
Of understanding the meaning of an edifice,
Can only be speculative
(Despite the accumulation of evidence and artefacts,
Despite measurement, mensuration and comparison,
Despite a commitment to the rigours of empiricism),
And a reflection of who we are in the here and now –
Or can Homo sapiens merely develop
A restricted trope of meanings, recognizable
And familiar, across time and space …
So some speculations are bound to be valid …
Or is signification, itself, a trope of modernity?
Nature and Nurture:
How circumscribed are we by time and space?
And how universal are we across the same?
What do these structures reveal and indicate
About what is quintessentially human?

So, prehistoric structures,
In an a priori, apostrophizing, manner,
The manner of an innocent wonderer,
As yet unread on the subject,
I question your meaning:
What were you for?

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Prehistory and Wormholes of Time

As the traffic rumbles past on Cotswold roads,
It’s hard to hear the chip of stone on flint,
Or the croak of corvids with their blood-drip beaks,
Or the breaking of the bones of a skeleton,
Or smell the rotting flesh on the capstone,
Or taste the ashes of the dead on the nightfall wind,
Or see the blood red sunset behind the silver river
Or the standing stone’s silhouette,
But try hard on a winter’s afternoon,
And you might just slip down a wormhole of time,
To rituals of death and memory,
And recognize the prehistoric past
For what it is and was:
Not something primitive and alien,
But something shared.

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Peterloo and Revolution

REVOLUTION 1819-2019

This was the time when the age of Marx replaced that of Burke,
The time when the ‘swinish multitude’ and ‘the mob’ became a working class,
When there was not just the economic revolution of school textbooks,
But also a presence of a possible political one,
A time when Tom Paine’s The Rights of Man (sic),
Viewed as seditious and libellous
By the nation’s rulers,
Could sell 200,000 copies in a year,
When the population was only around ten million,
And so many could not read – but they listened,
And learned and remembered,
Despite the patriotic cavalcades
And violent contrived disruption of ‘Jacobin’ meetings,
Despite the show trials and government spies,
The arrest of booksellers, the banning of political meetings,
The censorship and illegalisation of criticism of government or monarchy.
This was our land in the 1790s:
Mary Wollstonecraft’s Vindication of the Rights of Women,
Pitt’s repression at home and war abroad,
Food riots all around our five valleys
(‘We might as well be hanged as starved’),

http://radicalstroud.co.uk/the-1766-food-riots-and-the-hangmans-noose/

The Naval Mutinies of 1797
(“An attempt was made to give to the ships
in mutiny the name of ‘The Floating Republic’.”)
‘Secret Jacobin springs’ were rumoured:
‘Jacobin emissaries and the Corresponding Society …
Jacobin management and influence is at the bottom of this evil’;
The Red Flag was hoisted;
Richard Parker was elected President by the mutinous delegates:
‘… We are not rebels to our country, our country are rebels to us.’
‘I and my brother delegates are all united, and acting in the cause of humanity;
and while life animates the heart of Dick Parker, he will be true to the cause.’
Anything else to rock the ship of state?
Riots against the Militia Act in Scotland,
Wolfe Tone and rebellion in Ireland –
When more people were killed by the army
Than in the ‘Reign of Terror’ in Paris …
Pamphlets such as King Killing;
The Happy Reign of King George the Last;
100, 000 people meeting at Copenhagen Fields, Islington;
The King’s carriage attacked:
‘No War! No King! No Pitt!’
This sung to the tune of ‘God Save the King’ at Drury Lane Theatre:
‘And when George’s Poll
Shall in the basket roll,
Let mercy then control
The Guillotine.’

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Henry Hunt and Peterloo

‘With Henry Hunt, we’ll go my boys,
With Henry Hunt, we’ll go,
We’ll mount the Cap of Liberty,
In spite of Nadin Joe.

On the 16th day of August
Eighteen hundred and nineteen,
A meeting held in Peter’s Field
Was glorious to be seen,

Joe Nadin and his big bulldogs,
As you might plainly see,
And on the other side,
Stood the bloody cavalry.

With Henry Hunt, we’ll go my boys,
With Henry Hunt, we’ll go,
We’ll mount the Cap of Liberty,
In spite of Nadin Joe.’

So how did a Wiltshire gentleman farmer
End up on the hustings at Peterloo?
How did a seemingly egotistical,
And self-regarding rhetorician,
End up being eulogized by the North,
And revered by the industrial working class?

Tell me, Mr. Henry ‘Orator’ Hunt,
Up there, on the hustings and platforms,
In your self-centred, narcissistic white hat,
How did it happen?

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Radical Inns and Coffee Houses of London

Radical inns, taverns, alehouses, coffee houses, homes, houses, chapels,
Institutes, debating clubs and Spencean ‘free and easies’
Derived from a reading of Radical Underworld by Ian McCalman,
Radical Culture: Discourse, Resistance and Surveillance 1790-1820
by David Worrall,
William Cuffay The Life & Times of a Chartist Leader by Martin Hoyles,
The Spirit of Despotism by John Barrell,
Ian Newman http://www.1790salehouse.com/
and Francis Boorman’s thesis on Chancery Lane
https://sas-space.sas.ac.uk/5797/1/Francis_Boorman_- The_Political_space_of_Chancery_Lane_c._1760-1815.pdf

First up, the Bell in Exeter Street, where the LCS was formed in 1791,
To hear Thomas Hardy, founder of the LCS:
‘The Rights of Man’ ‘are not confined to this small island
But are extended to the whole human race, black or white,
High or low, rich or poor’;
Then to the Globe Tavern, corner of the Strand and Craven Street,
Where LCS divisions met in 1794:
‘We must have redress from our own laws and not from the laws
of our plunderers, enemies and oppressors’
Next, to Soho for the Panton Street Debating Club of 1795,
And the London Corresponding Society, once more:
“If the King … dare attempt to trample upon the Liberties of the People,
I hope they will trample upon his head”;
Other LCS pubs: The Friend at Hand, Little North Street,
The French Horn, Lambeth Walk,
The Queen’s Arms, Kennington Lane,
The Fox and Hounds, Sydenham,
But we’re off to Lunan’s public house,
Academy Court, Chancery Lane,
With Jacobins and spies in Bell’s Yard, too:
‘He talked of killing the King with blow-pipe
and poisoned arrow’;

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The Life of Allen Davenport

Allen Davenport

Prologue

When you were there at the Hopkins Street political chapel,
Or the Archer Street chapel in Soho,
Or listening at the Mulberry Tree in Moorfields,
In those months before the Cato Street Conspiracy,
There, with Robert Wedderburn –
Your rhetoric celebrating atheism,
Denouncing Christian hypocrisy
And espousing armed sedition,
In this, the most revolutionary
Of all the Spencean and political chapels,
Did your mind ever wander madeleine-like,
To the green in Ewen where you taught yourself to read,
And where you taught yourself to write?

(‘I was born May 1st, 1775, in the small and obscure village of Ewen … somewhat more than a mile from the source of the Thames, on the banks of which stream stands the cottage where I was born … I was never in any school … I had to get the very alphabet by catching a letter at a time as best I could from other children, who had learnt them at school … The next grand object I had in view was to acquire the art of penmanship …’)

Part the First

You had been a friend of Thomas Spence,
Since you had first met him in 1804,
It was Spence’s Restorer of Society to its Natural State
That set you on the path to political prose and poetry,

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Worker’s Memorial Day Walk Remembering Allen Davenport

Remembering Allen Davenport

‘I was born May 1st, 1775, in the small and obscure village of Ewen … somewhat more than a mile from the source of the Thames, on the banks of which stream stands the cottage where I was born … I was never in any school … I had to get the very alphabet by catching a letter at a time as best I could from other children, who had learnt them at school … The next grand object I had in view was to acquire the art of penmanship …’

‘If there were no parks or pleasure grounds, the whole face of the country would present to the eye cornfields, meadows, gardens, plantations of all kinds of fruit trees etc., all to the highest state of cultivation.’

A government spy’s report of Allen’s words after Peterloo: ‘The Yoemanry had murdered our fellow Countrymen but had we in our own Defence shot even one or two of them it would have been called Murder and Rebellion, but [we] will put up with it no longer … we may loose a few lives in the onset yet what is the army compared to the Mass of the Country who are laboring under the yoke of Despotism … these Yoemanry are but few compared with us and it only wants the People to make up their minds as one Man for it is better to Die fighting in the cause of Liberty and freedom than be starved by our Oppressors.’

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