This book is about protest and the multiple and contested ways it is remembered, about the work protest memories do and the uses of the past in the (historical) present. While several chapters speak to the present en passant, it is not a study of the way protests past are mobilised today – that worthy subject awaits its author – but rather a broader and temporally deeper analysis of the rememberings and tellings of protest in Britain in the period between roughly 1500 and 1850. Drawing on work in social and cultural history, cultural and historical geography, psychology, anthropology, critical heritage studies and memory studies, this collection of essays seeks for the first time to consider systemically the ways in which protest is remembered, not least by early modern and modern protestors themselves. This is not to say that this is the first study of protest memory: recent studies by Steve Hindle and Andy Wood, along with the ‘Tales of the Revolt’ project led Judith Pollman at Leiden examining memories of the Dutch Revolt, take precedence. Paul Roberts’ study of the prominent Chartist William Aitken also shows the power of autobiography as a tool in how protest memories were produced. Inspired by Andy Wood’s pioneering The Memory of the People, the purpose of this book is to consider the dynamic and lived nature of the past protests, in communities and at large. In so doing, it emphasises the contested and shifting nature of the meanings of past episodes of conflict, revealing how the past itself was (and remains) an important source of conflict and opposition. The book is thus novel in that it draws together the early modern and the modern, in that it considers the legacy of both the dramatic and the (relatively) mundane, and that it offers the first showcase of the variety of approaches that comprise the vibrant and intellectually fecund ‘new protest history’.
The editors of Remembering Protest organised with Dr Katrina Navickas and Dr Iain Robertson a series of three well-attended and very successful conferences held at the University of Hertfordshire (2011), the University of the West of England (2012) and the University of Gloucestershire (2013). While the chapters in this book do not come directly out of the conferences, it was at the final conference in Cheltenham that the idea for this book was hatched. We would therefore like to pay thanks to all those protest historians – a heady mix of the salaried academic, the student, those involved in heritage industries and trade unions, and that bastion of British social history, the enthusiastic amateur historian – who made the conferences such an intellectually fecund space. Katrina and Iain deserve our particular thanks for their inspiration and dedication to researching critical protest histories. Iain was also involved in the early stages of this publication project and we hope the finished book meets with his approval.