Universal suffrage was not achieved in England until 1918. However, a century-and-a-half before, one brave aristocrat proposed that all men have the right to vote. And he proposed this in the House of Lords of all places!
Adam Bell, Clim of the Clough, and William of Cloudesley were outlaws who were as famous as Robin Hood. Now they’re entirely forgotten!
In 1832, the publisher Charles Knight had a bright idea: every Saturday he would publish a new magazine which whose aim was to educate working-class readers about their world. It would not contain news, and would therefore be exempt from the Stamp Tax (the much-hated “tax on knowledge”), meaning that its retail price would be very low at only 1d.
John Mathew Gutch is often overlooked by modern Robin Hood scholars but, for a brief period in the Victorian era, he was the UK’s most famous Robin Hood historian.
Anthony Bynoe, a student-athlete at Richmond: The American International University, turns our attention to the life and works of Pierce Egan (1772–1849)
Joseph Ritson was a man of humble beginnings, a great scholar, a friend to the poor, and a radical, and his work had a profound influence on 19th- and 20th-century Robin Hood novels and films.
Robin Hood is significant, not because of the life of any real person but because he is a symbol. So, appropriations of his name in later centuries are significant because they highlight what the name meant to people like you and I in times past.
The following poem, simply titled ‘Robin Hood’ appeared in “The Oriental Observer” in 1828.
The History of Thomas Walsingham’s Historia Anglicana traced through Reappearances of Jack Straw’s Last Dying Speech
How do certain ‘facts’ about one of the major events of English history get forgotten? Between 1715 and 1863, one such fact which people forgot was a dying confession made by Jack Straw, ahero of the Peasants’ Revolt.
We live in an era in which, increasingly, governments in many western countries are realising that they are losing the so-called “War on Drugs”. Some countries have completely decriminalised certain substances, while in some states in the USA, you can buy marijuana over the counter for both medicinal and recreational use. Our attitude to illicit substances is increasingly looking not too dissimilar from that held by many people in the early nineteenth century.
William Holman Hunt’s painting of “The Awakening Conscience” (1853) told an all-too-familiar story: that of the working-class “kept woman” ensnared into a debauched lifestyle by an upper class man.
The Victorians in many ways were just like us: they enjoyed a good scandal whenever it was reported in the press, they liked both trashy and high-brow entertainment, and like today, they had their popular heroes adored by both adults and children. Let me introduce you to the Harry Potter of the late-Victorian era: Mr Jack Harkaway.
If Twitter was around in 1819, this angry letter writer named Robin Hood–who railed against corrupt and tyrannical MPs–would probably have had an account.
Hark ye! My Merry Men all and listen to me!
Of a very bad bishop who was a Tory!
“…the most selfish hearts should be humanized, and a feeling of love kept alive, reciprocating and reciprocated, between the rich and the poor, the politically great and the socially defenceless, for ever.”
In The 19th-Century Underworld: Crime, Controversy & Corruption, historian and novelist Stephen Carver, drawing upon a wide range of archival and literary sources, takes us on a journey through the seedy courts and sinister alleyways of the criminal underworld which existed during the nineteenth century.
I recently came into possession of a book written by Thomas Cooper (1805-92), a famous Chartist activist, which he gave to his friend, the newspaper proprietor and fellow Chartist, John Cleave (1790-1847).
“Up at the League, says a friend, there had been one night a brisk conversational discussion, as to what would happen on the Morrow of the Revolution, finally shading off into a vigorous statement by various friends of their views on the future of the fully-developed new society … [William Guest] found himself musing on the subject-matter of discussion, but still discontentedly and unhappily. “If I could but see it!” … “If I could but see it! If I could but see it!”
According to an ancient custom in India, widows would voluntarily mount their dead husbands’ funeral pyres and be burned alive. The British put a stop to this practice in 1829.
Chartists writers loved drawing inspiration from England’s medieval past; in their campaign for political reform, which better figure could they choose than England’s famous outlaw from the Middle Ages?
“I only strive to arouse the grovelling spirit of the industrious millions to a sense of the wrongs under which they labour.”
“I will warn him that he will not find my robbers such romantic, generous characters as those who occasionally figure in the fields of fiction. He will meet with men strangers to that virtue of robbing the rich to give to the poor. They give to the poor indeed, but it is as spies and instruments of their own crimes, or at least in order to avoid detection.” –Charles Macfarlane, 1833.
“A general spirit of discontent has long been increasing among the people: it has at last broken out among the lower class in London.”
Pierce Egan’s “Quintin Matsys” is like the Belgian “Les Miserables”; the people of Antwerp rise up and take to the barricades to overthrow the evil aristocrats who oppress them.