July 13, 2010

Searching Frustrations

One thing I've noticed from working with catalogues and databases online is quite how hard finding relevant information is online. Often, when simply turning to Google to find an answer there are plenty of locations to learn about your favoured topic or issue. However with research it is quite a different situation indeed; searching for items linked to 'protestant association', or 'lord george gordon' or 'petition', even within a relatively short time period (such as between Jan-June 1780) throw up literally hundreds of results, many of which are mere passing references.

Understandably  academic search engines can't be quite as generalised as Google, but it is something I have come to learn through using them over the past few months. One skill you do learn however is how to best navigate such search engines to make the best use of the keywords, the time-frame, using 'fuzzy' searches and many other little operators to ensure the best results.

Still, it's taking a while to get through nonetheless! 

July 12, 2010

A Week with Burney & The Rehetoric of Strong Beer

My first update since Easter, I will attempt to make these more regular now I'm on holiday! 

Mainly I've been focusing on the Burney database of 18th Century newspaperssearching for various keywords which may help me locate information on how the petitioning was organised and gathered. So far I've mainly discovered that the Protestant Association used lots of Classified Ads to get the message out; at least in London anyhow!

I've had some help from Prof. H. T. Dickinson up in Edinburgh with areas to research and some materials from the petition for which I'm very grateful indeed!

Looking forward I'm going to be using ECCOto locate pamphlets and other documents to see if I can discern any more about petitioning. Already I've found one from 1780 called 'The Sense of The People':

'The petition, ready framed and copied, is then produced, and immediately
signed by the predisposed adherents of the party. The few whole weak minds
may be influenced by weak, though inflammatory argument, and the many who,
having no minds of their own, submit the direction of their opinions to
the bystanders. A committee is appointed by whom the petition is handed
round the county to such of the cabal as, by the rhetoric of strong beer,
or the art of varying hand-writing, can procure a number of subscribers.
Another committee of correspondence and association is named to be ready
for further mischief; and then the very same leaders adjourn to another
county, where they act over again the same play (tragedy or comedy, the
event must determine) make the same speeches, produce the same petition,
and promote the subscription of it in exactly the same way, citing always
the example of the last county they performed in as an inducement for the
next, and exhibiting the long roll of names, no matter how obtained, as
unquestionable evidence of The Sense of The People.'

More to come soon! I welcome any comments!


Source of quote:
The sense of the people: a letter to Edmund Burke, Esq. on his intended motion in the House of Commons, the 11th inst. Containing also, some observations on the petitions now fabricating, and the proposed associations.London,  MDCCLXXX. [1780]. Eighteenth Century Collections Online. Gale. University of Warwick Library. 12 July 2010 

April 17, 2010

My last full day – so far!

Today was my first experience with Microfilm. I spent the day on the second floor at Kew, flipping through a number of archived State Papers from the time of the Riots. Compared with yesterday's research on the events in Parliament, it was interesting to see the on-going correspondence of the two weeks from 2nd June 1780 when the riots began was much more alarmed than the plain reporting of facts found in the paper documents!

I didn't manage to find quite as much useful information today alas, with the exception of a number of names of potentially important people who were involved in the petitioning/riots - if I can learn more about them, perhaps through newspaper/pamphlet search, I shall hopefully be able to delve deeper into how these petitions managed to amass quite so many signatories!

April 16, 2010

The National Archives and a rare headline…

Onto my second day in the archives, and today was arguably much more profitable than yesterday! Headed after an early breakfast (Full English, orange juice and coffee!) first to 'Budgens', a shop I'd previously never heard of, but appears to be much like any other mini-supermarket. The great thing about it as I approached at 8am? It had the glorious aroma of a pâtisserie. And nothing beats freshly baked goods on a Friday morning! Nevertheless I withheld from buying croissants and pain au chocolat, and instead opted for a cucumber sandwich, bottle of orange juice, packet of crisps and a Guardian

From Budgens I headed to Angel, whereby I caught the tube to Kew Gardens, changing at Kings X St Pancras and Hammersmith. Upon reaching the Archives I was struck by the impressiveness of the building, a cross somewhere between MI6 headquarters, Warwick's University House and York's space-ship lecture theatre.

Once inside I headed to the upstairs, and for the second time in two days have my identity checked and a photocard issued. I now have four new cards in my wallet - a LMA History Card, National Archives Reader's Ticket, an LSE door card and an LSE meal card. Despite the possible security risks, I still think a singular, use-everywhere card would be the best means of going about our lives, a la the Oyster card writ national.

Just prior to a brief introductory session I ordered my first (and in the end only) document: TS (Treasury Solicitor) 11/388 (1212), on a list of known items provided by my supervisor Prof. Mark Knights.

I learnt during the talk that I was the only newbie during the talk doing academic research. It is striking just how many people are now searching family history records - apparently 90% of visitors are now here for this purpose. I wonder how influential Who do you think you are?was in contributing to this!

After the introduction I headed to the Reading Room, where I picked up my box of documents for seat 20E and got to work, carefully examining what had been uncovered. A lot focused on Lord George Gordon's later trial for libel against the Queen of France, but there were some great pieces on the Petition; including a copy of the Newcastle petition. Just seeing it and holding it was fascinating, truly a connection with history. I also read a document recording events at the House of Commons during the riots, including the votes cast on what to do about the petition - Gordon was one of the tellers, another Sir George Osbourne (a relation, I wonder?). Sadly I didn't gleam much on the nature of petitioning, particuarly how it was gathered, however I did do some newspaper searches yesterday which appeared to suggest public meetings at 'Coachmakers Hall' in Foster Lane (by St Pauls Cathedral) held in 1779 were promoted through the use of Classified Adverts.

Hopefully I'll learn more tomorrow!

Here's a link to a photo album I'll updated regularly with images from my research: 
URSS Blog photos

April 15, 2010


I am currently on the 8th floor of Rosebery Hall, London, sitting in my new home for the next few days! 

I'm fortunately just around the corner from the Metropolitan archives I mentioned in my previous post, and now have internet on my laptop through my phone, which is very useful indeed! Off to grab some food now, before some online newspaper work!

And what a view- scaffolding, yum!

The view from my room

The London Metropolitan Archives

Writing about web page http://www.lma.gov.uk

A brief update - I have little internet access here, but I am currently in the London Metropolitan Archives, taking part in my first research of this project!

Currently awaiting 'Alchin's Documents' which should shed some light on the petitions given to the House of Commons, and the response of the government; it contains a number of Privy Council letters.

More updates to come!


April 13, 2010



I'm Charlie Small, a current second year HisPol undergraduate, and this blog is dedicated to my Undergraduate Research Scholarship Scheme (URSS) project, on the Gordon Petitions of 1780. It will feature regular updates on the research I am undertaking with Professor Mark Knightsas part of the project.

Background to the petitions:

In 1778 the government passed The Papists Act [18 George III c. 60], the first Catholic Relief act, reversing some of the provisions of the 1698 Popery Act and providing the catalyst for Lord George Gordon, in the position of President of the Protestant Association to campaign for repeal of the act. This led to the creation of two petitions, one in Newcastle/Durham and the other in London. These petitions were delivered to the House of Commons on 2 June 1780, and the response of the government led to widespread rioting in the eponymous Riots.

This project shall examine these two petitions. Through the use of newspapers, periodicals, contemporary reports and the petitions themselves, I aim to learn who the signatories were, their occupations and class.

This blog will record my findings, forming an online journal of my activities!

My first experience with research begins tomorrow, as I head to London to stay for a few days and begin examining documents.

Stay tuned for updates on what I discover!


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