Today the red flag has, predominantly, become a symbol of socialism and communism. Its European origins date back to the Middle Ages, when a red streamer flying from the mast of a warship signalled a willingness to fight to the death, with no surrender. But its radical political roots lie firmly in the Age of Revolution.
February 19, 2019 - Richard Moss
This photograph of 11 men and women shows the Failsworth Veterans of the Peterloo Massacre at a Great Reform Demonstration in Failsworth, Lancashire (now Greater Manchester) on September 27 1884. A good 65 years after the event, these ageing Victorian veterans were by then in their eighties, but they offered a tangible link with an […]
The writer, William Godwin is perhaps not the most famous but was one of the most influential British radicals and political philosophers of the Age of Revolution. He was married to the revolutionary feminist writer Mary Wollstonecraft, and was the father of Frankenstein author Mary Shelley. He established the Juvenile Library and had a powerful influence on the Romantic poets, including William Wordsworth and his son-in-law Percy Shelley.
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’.
Wolfe Tone was a founder of the United Irishmen and a leading figure in the fight for Irish independence from British rule. In 1798, Tone led the United Irishmen in a major uprising, hoping to begin a nationalist and republican revolution in Ireland with the support of French troops.
The 1800s saw a series of protests and uprisings in Britain, as people campaigned against slavery, unjust taxes and laws imposed by the government and in support of fair wages, the right to vote and to have their voices heard in parliament. Protest flags, posters and banners carrying radical slogans were a popular way for campaigners to get their message across at marches and rallies, and to cooperate without endangering individuals. The Skelmanthorpe flag was created in secret, in Huddersfield, initially to honour the victims of what became known as the Peterloo Massacre, in 1819.
Robert Burns also known as Rabbie Burns and as ‘the Bard’ in Scotland, was a Scottish poet and lyricist. He is widely regarded as the greatest Scottish poet and is celebrated each year in Scotland on Burns Night, with traditional suppers including haggis and whiskey, followed by readings of his poetry. His poems used humour and familiar subjects to express big ideas, making them instantly accessible to a wide range of people and are still popular today. Their subject matter, egalitarianism (stressing equality and ordinary people), and underpinning Romanticism left an important imprint that inspired many future reformers.
November 1, 2018 - Richard Moss
Mike Leigh talks about the historical sources for his groundbreaking film Peterloo with his historical adviser, the author and historian Jacqueline Riding, in this snippet from an interview with the Historical Association. The Historical Association website also offers some intersting resources and insights into the history of radicalism during the Age of Revolution – inlcuding […]
September 7, 2018 - Richard Moss
Ian Hislop has been on a mission to find stories of dissent, subversion and satire hidden within the vast collections of the British Museum for a new exhibition I object: Ian Hislop’s search for dissent. Showcasing over 100 objects that challenge the official version of events and defy established narratives, the items span three millennia […]
August 11, 2018 - Richard Moss
A number of commemorative medals were produced following the Peterloo Massacre of 1819, but this one, recently acquired by the People’s History Museum in Manchester, is believed to be one of the earliest. Its closeness to the terrible events of the notorious massacre of August 16 of 1819 when 18 people in a crowd of […]