Before the 1800s, most homes, workplaces and streets were lit by candles, oil lamps or rushlights (rush plants dried and dipped in grease or fat). But these gave off a very dim light and could be smoky. In 1792, the Scottish engineer and inventor William Murdoch (1754-1839) made an extraordinary discovery which would transform not only lighting, but heating, cooking and all sorts of other activity and industry. Experimenting in his back garden in Cornwall, he found a way to produce gas, by heating coal in a closed container and collecting and cleaning the smoke. He piped the gas into his house, made holes in the pipes and lit the gas there. This produced a light much brighter and safer than from candles or oil lamps.
Hannah More (1745-1833) was a poet, playwright, anti-slavery campaigner and one of the most influential female philanthropists of the Age of Revolution. Seen by some as an early feminist, and others as an anti-feminist, she remains a controversial figure today.
Túpac Amaru II was the leader of the largest uprising in colonial Spanish-American history which raged across the Andes from 1780-1783. It became more violent as it progressed, and also more radical, more antislavery, and more anti-Hispanic. Its leader is still remembered in Peru and Bolivia and beyond today.
The New Poor Law of 1834 aimed to provide relief for the poorest members of society. It was introduced to reform a system that had been largely unchanged since the 1600s. It was intended to reduce the cost of supporting the poor and ensure the whole country was using the same system. But this new, draconian law, actually saw desperate men, women and children admitted to workhouses to live in appalling conditions. At this time, poverty was often blamed on the ‘bad character’ of the victim, assuming it their own fault if they were poor. As a result of this, many approved of the new law. Others, however, strongly opposed it, campaigning and even rioting in protest.
The uprising in Ireland, in 1798, was a major rebellion against colonial British rule. It was led by the United Irishmen – a mixed group of Protestant and Catholic radicals. The Battle of Vinegar Hill, as it became known, in County Wexford in the southeast of Ireland, was the last major engagement between the United Irishmen and the British military and marked a significant turning point in the rebellion.
Thomas Muir was a radical, who campaigned for political reform in Scotland. He was eventually accused of sedition and transported to Australia, following one of the most notorious and controversial trials in Scottish history. He became known as the father of Scottish democracy and one of Scotland’s five ‘political martyrs’.
The industrial printing press was one of the most influential inventions of the Age of Revolution. It allowed thousands of copies of all types of written texts and images to be printed quickly and cheaply. Pamphlets, newspapers, handbills and books could now be mass produced and distributed, spreading news, ideas, political and social campaigns, propaganda, stories, poetry and more.
John Dalton was a renowned British chemist, best remembered for introducing atomic theory into chemistry. This is the theory that all substances are made from tiny particles called atoms. His theory revolutionised scientific understanding, helping to explain chemical phenomena that had long puzzled scientists, and providing a theoretical foundation for chemistry that remains today.
Dartmoor prison was built between 1806 and 1809, mainly to confine thousands of prisoners of war. It was built in Princetown, a bleak part of Dartmoor and an ideal location because of its remoteness. It was designed by Daniel Asher Alexander, with buildings arranged like the spokes in a wheel, surrounded by a high perimeter wall. It was one of Britain’s first purpose-built prisons designed for 6,000 prisoners, and still remains a prison today, though now with a maximum capacity of just 659.
Resource : Figures by Chelsea Waterworks, London, observing the fires of the Gordon Riots, 7 June 1780
The Gordon Riots were a series of anti-Catholic protests which took place in London between 2 and 9 June, 1780. The protests began peacefully but descended into chaos. Crowds paralysed the city with an unparalleled level of violence, with rioters attacking and setting fire to official buildings and people’s homes. The riots are considered by some historians as being the closest Britain has ever come to a full-scale revolution, and shocked fellow European powers.