Time and Place:1780 The Gordon Riots: Blood Community and Retribution - London 1780

Module code: V1426
Level 5
15 credits in spring semester
Teaching method: Seminar, Lecture
Assessment modes: Coursework

In six days of bloody insurrection, London tore itself to pieces in the second week of June 1780. After the violence had stopped almost 300 people were dead, the prisons destroyed, and hundreds of thousands of pounds of damage wrought on the fabric of the capital.

The Gordon Riots were simply the most violent popular uprising in modern British history. Framed by the American Revolution and War, but apparently arising from the relatively insignificant issue of limited Catholic toleration, the riots redefined the roles of the mob, the state, of religion and the army in the negotiated settlement that was late eighteenth-century society. In the process, the riots marked a sharp transition from an older system of local popltics - in which the mob collaborated in elite politics - to a new politics of class.

The ready availbility of trial accounts, state papers, newspapers and pamphlets, on line and in a digital form, will allow you to both engage with the day-by-day development of the riots, and as importantly, to write about them differently (online, with maps, images and supporting primary sources).

Through the lens of this single tranformative event, you'll able to explore larger themes, including:

  • London as the pivot for the development of the Atlantic world
  • the roles of popular protest in pre-modern and modern politics
  • the eighteenth-century system of criminal justice and policing
  • the roles of religion and the parish community in popular politics
  • the uses of micro-history
  • the 'gender crisis' of the 1780s.

Module learning outcomes

  • Critically evaluate the historiography around a particular moment.
  • Critically evaluate the applicability of historical concepts to particular cases.
  • Supply evidence of these skills in extended essay form.
  • Demonstrate ability to use limited amounts of primary source material in extended historical argument.