The Gordon Riots
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss why a Westminster protest against 'Popery' in June 1780 led to widespread rioting across London, lethally suppressed.
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the most destructive riots in London's history, which reached their peak on 7th June 1780 as troops fired on the crowd outside the Bank of England. The leader was Lord George Gordon, head of the Protestant Association, who objected to the relaxing of laws against Catholics. At first the protest outside Parliament was peaceful but, when Gordon's petition failed to persuade the Commons, rioting continued for days until the military started to shoot suspects in the street. It came as Britain was losing the war to hold on to colonies in North America.
The image above shows a crowd setting fire to Newgate Prison and freeing prisoners by the authority of 'His Majesty, King Mob.'
Professor of English at the University of Roehampton
Senior Lecturer in Modern British and Irish History and Director of the Centre for Eighteenth Century Studies at the University of York
Professor of History at the University of Warwick
Producer: Simon Tillotson
LINKS AND FURTHER READING
Colin Haydon, Anti-Catholicism in Eighteenth-Century England, c. 1714-80: A Political and Social Study (Manchester University Press, 1993)
Ian Haywood and John Seed, The Gordon Riots. Politics, Culture and Insurrection in Late Eighteenth Century Britain (Cambridge University Press, 2012)
Christopher Hibbert, King Mob: The Story of Lord George Gordon and the London Riots of 1780 (Longman, 1958)
Tim Hitchcock and Robert Shoemaker, London Lives: Poverty, Crime, and the Making of a Modern City, 1690-1800 (Cambridge University Press, 2015)
Richard Huzzey (ed.), Pressure and Parliament: From Civil War to Civil Society (John Wiley, 2018), especially ‘”The Lowest Degree of Freedom”: The Right to Petition, 1640-1800’ by Mark Knights
Ronald Paulson, Representations of Revolution 1789-1820 (Yale University Press, 1983)
Adrian Randall, Riotous Assemblies: Popular Protest in Hanoverian England (Oxford University Press, 2006)
Nicholas Rogers, Crowds, Culture, and Politics in Georgian Britain (Clarendon Press, 1998)
George Rudé, Paris and London in the Eighteenth Century: Studies in Popular Protest (first published 1952; Penguin Books, 1973)
George Rudé, The Crowd in History (first published 1965; Serif, 2005)
John Stevenson, Popular Disturbances in England 1700-1870 (Routledge, 1992)
E. P. Thompson, The Making of the English Working Class (first published 1968; Penguin, 2013)