In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries revolutionary dissent, political upheaval and social protest spread throughout Europe - and Wales was no exception. In this unique examination of British social history, J. E. Thomas focuses upon the power of the local gentry in Wales, and their relationship with the poor and potentially revolutionary population. Early explosions of protest were seen all over Wales, coinciding with the aftermath of the American Revolution, and the equally seismic events of the French Revolution. Thomas here analyses the importance of the intellectual ideas and political imagination of the protesters in Wales, and the impact of Welsh translations of seminal revolutionary texts such as Thomas Paine's 'Rights of Man', and Volney's 'Ruins of Empire'. Later large scale protests saw the collusion of Pembrokeshire peasants with the French invaders of 1797, uprisings in Merthyr in the 1830s, and the famous 'Rebecca Riots' of the 1840s, all of which were to seriously challenge the British state. This book therefore offers an examination of both the underlying causes of unrest and disorder, and an explanation of how the authorities coped with these challenges to the power of the church and state. Crucially, and controversially, Thomas questions the received wisdom that non-conformism was politically radical and sought to improve the conditions of the poor. By exploring the attitudes of the powerful nonconformist bodies, he offers a reassessment of the social history of religion in Wales, in which the nonconformist clergy actually formed a religious oligarchy in its truest sense, and bore all the hallmarks of being conservative, inactive and exclusive. Using previously unpublished sources, Social Disorder in Britain is an important contribution to the study of the history of religion, social protest and the rise of revolutionary movements, and will be essential reading for students of British history as well as those interested in revolution more generally.
Social Disorder in Britain 1750-1850
The Power of the Gentry, Radicalism and Religion in Wales