Metropolitan ‘Radicalism’ and Electoral Independence, 1760–1820

  • Matthew McCormack


Late Georgian radicalism used to be regarded as an uncomplicated business. The period from John Wilkes’s noisy entry onto the political stage to Queen Caroline’s subdued exit was glorified by Whig and Marxist historians alike as being one in which political theory and participation were inexorably democratised. In contrast with the Victorian period, much of this ‘radical’ activity was focused upon London, which has tended to lend even greater coherence to historical accounts of the phenomenon. As we will see, the capital had a proud tradition of political heterodoxy and most scholars have been content that this provided the logical set of conditions for the emergence of radical politics. Furthermore, Georgian radicals themselves were mostly London-centric. Many moved in the same circles and even provincial radicals gravitated towards the capital for election campaigns, meetings and ceremonial dinners, often appearing together on our sources’ ubiquitous lists of attendees. Many subsequent commentators have bought into this co-ordinated picture, and the imposition of labels like ‘Westminster radicals’ has lent London radicalism — and Georgian radicalism itself — a unity that it may not in fact have possessed.


Radical Politics Government Candidate Election Contest London Radical Victorian Period 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    J. A. Hone, For the Cause of Truth: Radicalism in London, 1796–1821 (Oxford, 1982), p. 130.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    L. Sutherland, ‘The City of London and opposition to government, 1768–1774’, in A. Newman (ed.) Politics and Finance in the Eighteenth Century (London, 1984), pp. 115–47.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    F. Sheppard, London 1808–1870: The Infernal Wen (London, 1971), p. 45.Google Scholar
  4. 5.
    I. McCalman, Radical Underworld: Prophets, Revolutionaries and Pornographers in London, 1795–1840 (Oxford, 1988).Google Scholar
  5. 7.
    K. Gilmartin, Print Politics: ThePress and Radical Opposition in Early Nineteenth-Century England (Cambridge, 1996).Google Scholar
  6. 8.
    J. Belchem, ‘Orator’ Hunt: Henry Hunt and English Working-Class Radicalism (Oxford, 1985).Google Scholar
  7. 10.
    J. Stevenson, ‘The Queen Caroline Affair’, in J. Stevenson (ed.) London in the Age of Reform (Oxford, 1977), pp. 117–48.Google Scholar
  8. 11.
    W. Thomas, ‘Whigs and Radicals in Westminster: The Election of 1819’, Guildhall Miscellany, III (1970), 213–14.Google Scholar
  9. 13.
    T. Holcroft [and W. Hazlitt,] The Life of Thomas Holcroft, ed. E. Colby, ii (London, 1925), p. 12.Google Scholar
  10. 14.
    F. Burdett, Reform of Parliament. To the Electors of Westminster (London, 1820), p. 7.Google Scholar
  11. 15.
    J. Belchem, Popular Radicalism in Nineteenth-Century Britain (Basingstoke, 1996), p. 1.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. 16.
    J. G. A. Pocock, The Machiavellian Moment: Florentine Political Thought and the Atlantic Republican Tradition (Princeton, 1975).Google Scholar
  13. G. Stedman Jones, Languages of Class (Cambridge, 1983).Google Scholar
  14. E. Biagini, Liberty, Retrenchment and Reform: Popular Liberalism in the Age of Gladstone, 1860–1880 (Cambridge, 1992).Google Scholar
  15. 17.
    J. Vernon (ed.), Re-Reading the Constitution: New Narratives in the Political History of England’s Long Nineteenth Century (Cambridge, 1996).Google Scholar
  16. 19.
    G. Rudé, Wilkes and Liberty: A Social Study of 1763 to 1774 (Oxford, 1962).Google Scholar
  17. 20.
    T. Jenks, ‘Language and Politics at the Westminster Election of 1796’, HJ, XLIV (2001), 419–39.Google Scholar
  18. 23.
    M. McCormack, The Independent Man: Citizenship and Gender Politics in Georgian England (Manchester, 2005), ch. 2.Google Scholar
  19. 25.
    F. O’Gorman, Voters, Patrons, and Parties: The Unreformed Electorate of Hanoverian England (Oxford, 1989), pp. 259–85 and passim.Google Scholar
  20. R. Sweet, ‘Freemen and Independence in English borough politics, c.l770–1830’, P & P, 161 (1998), 84–115.Google Scholar
  21. 26.
    G. Rudé, Hanoverian London 1714–1808 (London, 1971).Google Scholar
  22. 27.
    Q. Skinner, Liberty Before Liberalism (Cambridge, 1998).Google Scholar
  23. 28.
    N. Rogers, ‘Aristocratic Clientage, Trade and Independency: Popular Politics in Pre-radical Westminster’, P & P, 61 (1973), 70–106.Google Scholar
  24. See also L. Colley, ‘Eighteenth-century English radicalism before Wilkes’, TRHS, 5th series: 31 (1981), 1–19.Google Scholar
  25. 29.
    Francis Place, quoted in R. G. Thorne, The House of Commons, 1790–1820, 4 vols (London, 1986), ii, p. 267.Google Scholar
  26. 41.
    Quoted in L. Namier and J. Brooke (eds), The House of Commons 1754–90, 3 vols. (London, 1964), iii, p. 640.Google Scholar
  27. 42.
    John Wilkes, The Battle of the Quills: Or, Wilkes Attacked and Defended (London, 1768), pp. 40, 55.Google Scholar
  28. 47.
    M. McCormack, ‘“The Independent Man” in English Political Culture’, unpublished PhD thesis (University of Manchester, 2002), ch. 3.Google Scholar
  29. 51.
    J. Dinwiddy, ‘Sir Francis Burdett and Burdettite Radicalism’, History, 65 (1980), 17–31 (p. 22).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. 52.
    J. Belchem and J. Epstein, ‘The Nineteenth-century Gentleman Leader Revisited’, SH, 22, 2 (1997), 174–93.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Matthew McCormack 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Matthew McCormack

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations