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20 July 2023 - 21 July 2023

9:00AM - 5:00PM

Collingwood College Penthouse Conference Suite, Durham University

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Registration is now open for this two-day conference to be held 20-21 July 2023 at Collingwood College. All are also welcome to attend the book launch for Henry Miller’s A Nation of Petitioners: Petitions and Petitioning in the United Kingdom, 1780-1918 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2023). It will take place on Wednesday, 19 July 2023, 4-5pm, PG.21 (Palace Green 21). Contact:

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Chartist meeting on Kennington Common by William Edward Kilburn 1848 - image from Wikicommons

Organise! Organise! Organise! Collective Action, Associational Culture and the Politics of Organisation in Britain and Ireland, c.1790-1914

20-21 July 2023, Collingwood College Penthouse Conference Suite, Durham University

This two-day conference will explore why, how, to what ends, and with what effects people in Britain and Ireland organised and were organised for political purposes during the long nineteenth century, one that has been seen as an age of association. It will drive forward debate about the meanings, modes, extents, and locations of participatory and representational political culture and of formal and informal politics.

Contemporaries debated, encouraged and feared the potential power of organisational politics to politicise and mobilise, to make demands and disseminate information, or to suppress. Associational culture encompassed and challenged a range of behaviours, belongings, communications, and sites. Participation in and marginalisation from political activism could be encountered socially, economically, emotionally, materially, linguistically, physically, and spatially. The politics of organisation was intimately linked to how people thought, felt, spoke, and heard about, and did and experienced, politics. The study of grassroots collective action and associational culture therefore offers an opportunity for innovative interpretations that cut across traditional subfield boundaries and help us think about ‘the political’ and ‘political history’ in new ways. This is the first conference dedicated to the subject of political organising in the modern British Isles.

The conference will consist of two sets of parallel paper sessions over the course of the two days. A keynote will be given by Professor Katrina Navickas at the start of day one, on radical politics and uses of space and place.

There is a maximum in-person attendance capacity of 80. The event is hybrid and all the sessions will be available to watch live.

Registration for the conference is open now and close on 5 July. Registration for online attendance will remain open until 17 July.



8.30AM – 9.15AM Registration (Lobby) and refreshments (Boardroom)

9.15AM – 10.30AM Keynote talk (Penthouse Suite Room A/B)

Professor Katrina Navickas (University of Hertfordshire): ‘Practical representation and battles over locality: the importance of place in British popular politics in the long nineteenth century’

10.30AM – 11AM Refreshments (Boardroom)

NB: During this break the Penthouse Suite will be split into rooms A and B for the panel sessions

11AM – 12.20PM Panel Session One

Panel 1.A (Room A) Politics and emotions                           

Nicholas Barone (Princeton University): ‘“The indifference is the deadweight of history”: Apathy and British Radical Politics, 1790-1840’

Professor Matthew Roberts (Sheffield Hallam University): ‘Cobden, Peel, the Anti-Corn Law League and the Politics of Feeling in Mid-Victorian England’

Dr Laura C. Forster (Manchester University): ‘The political lecture tour in nineteenth-century Britain: activism, hospitality and intimacy on the road’

Panel 1.B (Room B) Politics of land                                                 

Dr Lowri Ann Rees (Bangor University): ‘Protesting paternalism: the Rebecca Riots as a political protest movement in south-west Wales’

Dr Brian Casey (Durham University): ‘Michael Davitt’s second tour of the Scottish Highlands, 1887’

Dr Andrew Phemister (Newcastle University): ‘“A usurpation of the functions of government”: Boycotting, democracy and the state’

12.20PM – 1PM Lunch (Boardroom)

1PM – 2.20PM Panel Session Two

Panel 2.A (Room A) Politics in Ireland    

Patrick Duffy (Trinity College Dublin): ‘“The gap of the north”: territorial rhetoric, identity and a frontier mentality in south Ulster, 1828-35’

Professor Peter Gray (Queen’s University Belfast): ‘Radicalism and its discontents in early-Victorian Belfast: The Ulster Constitutional Association, 1840-41’

Dr Colin Reid (Sheffield University): ‘Crisis management: the world of Irish Toryism during the 1830s and 1840s’

Panel 2.B (Room B) Politics in the age of reform                       

Dr Philip Salmon (History of Parliament): ‘Marrying for the vote: the political organisation of marriage in the UK's freeman boroughs, 1800-1840’

Professor Richard Huzzey (Durham University), with Dr Kathryn Rix (History of Parliament): 'Exclusive dealing and the politics of organisation in the age of reform'

Dr Martin Spychal (History of Parliament): ‘“she, yes she was the only member of Parliament”: Harriet Grote and the organisation of radicalism, 1832-41’

2.20PM – 2.45PM Refreshments (Boardroom)

2.45PM – 4.05PM Panel session 3

Panel 3.A (Room A) Four nations politics                             

Dr Kyle Thompson (Pittsburg State University): ‘The Young Scots Society and Gladstone’ (Online)

Dr Shaun Evans (Bangor University): ‘Landowners against land reform: the aims and activities of the North Wales Property Defence Association, c.1886-96’

Dr Niall Whelehan (University of Strathclyde): ‘Land, Rent and Irish Migrant Activism in late-nineteenth century Britain’

Panel 3.B (Room B) Inside and out of parliament         

James Peate (Bristol University): ‘Friends of the People? Populism, Loyalism and Reform in the 1790s’

Sarah Boote-Powell (Warwick University): ‘“The sinews bag unstrung”: the organisation and practice of electoral registration in local politics in Coventry and Leicester, 1832-41’

Tom Musgrove (Queen Mary, University of London): ‘Representing the Balkans: “Expert” Image-Making and the Balkan Committee, 1903-1914’

4.05PM – 4.25PM Refreshments (Boardroom)

4.25PM – 5.45PM Panel session 4

Panel 4.A (Room A) Knowledge and morality    

Josh Smith (University of Stirling): ‘“Friends to the diffusion of knowledge”: The Associational Politics and Patronage of the British Subscription Library, 1800-1832’ (Online)

George Palmer (University of Cambridge): ‘Tory Faddism? The Church of England Temperance Society and the Politics of Conservative Morality in the Late Nineteenth Century’

Olly Gough (University of Oxford): ‘History, Voluntary Association and the State in British Political Thought, 1870-1914’

Panel 4.B (Room B) Political writing       

Dr Marion Loeffler (Cardiff University): ‘Dissenters, Poets and Dangerous Translations: Undercover Radicals in 1790s Wales’

Dr Vic Clarke (Durham University): ‘Advertising Radicalism: Identity and Collective Branding in the Chartist Press’

Dr Martin Wright (Cardiff University): ‘Print Culture, Language and Radical Networks in Welsh Socialism before the Great War’

5.45PM-6.45PM Drinks reception (Boardroom)

Generously co-sponsored by Centre for Nineteenth Century Studies and History of Parliament Trust

7PM – conference dinner (location TBC)


8.30AM – 9AM Registration (Lobby) and refreshments (Boardroom)

9AM – 10.20AM Panel session 5 (Penthouse Suite Room A/B)

Visual and material cultures                                                    

Dr Henry Miller (Durham University): ‘Petitions and the material culture of political organisation’

Dr Chloe Ward (Queen Mary, University of London): ‘Art and Action: Victorian Painting as a Call to Arms’

Professor James Thompson (University of Bristol): 'The visual culture of demonstrations, c. 1880-1914'

10.20AM – 10.50AM Refreshments (Boardroom)

NB: During this break the Penthouse Suite will be split into rooms A and B for the panel sessions

10.50AM – 12.10PM Panel session 6

Panel 6.A (Room A) Regional politics                                            

Professor Simon Morgan (Leeds Beckett University): ‘“The mainspring of the movement”: Richard Cobden’s letters and the regional organisation of the Anti-Corn Law League’

Dr Kathryn Rix (History of Parliament): ‘Between the centre and the constituencies: regional party organisation in England in the wake of the Third Reform Act’

Professor Ewen Cameron (University of Edinburgh): 'Joe Duncan and the challenge of Labour organisation and activism in the east of Scotland, 1906 to 1914’

Panel 6.B (Room B) Suffragette politics  

Dr Mari Takayanagi (Parliamentary Archives): ‘Suffragette activism in the Palace of Westminster’  

Dr Erin Geraghty (University of the West of England): “‘‘It is not nationality, but personality that counts”: English suffragists in the Irish suffrage movement’

Dr Kate Connelly (New York University, London): ‘…And Whose Army?’

DAY TWO 12.10PM – 12.50PM Lunch (Boardroom)

12.50PM – 2.10PM Panel session 7

Panel 7.A (Room A) Politics of space     

Mary O’Connor (University of Oxford): ‘Forum Selection in the Anti-Corn Law Campaign of the 1820s’

Dave Steel (Warwick University): ‘The Power of the Crowd’

Dr Caitlin Kitchener (York University): ‘Political Palimpsests: How landscape, memory, and heritage organised mass platform meetings in early nineteenth radicalism’

Panel 7.B (Room B) Politics of association          

Dr Francis Calvert Boorman (Institute of Advanced Legal Studies): 'Independence or interference?: Arbitration and working-class associational culture in nineteenth-century England'

Dr Dan Weinbren (Open University): ‘Friendly societies and the performance of fraternal democracy’

Professor Graeme Morton (University of Dundee): ‘Politicising Middle-Class Associational Culture in a Stateless Nation’

2.10PM – 2.25PM Refreshments

2.25PM – 3.45PM Panel session 8

Panel 8.A (Room A) Women in politics                                

Dr Ciara Stewart (National Library of Ireland): “‘The Tyrannous and Immoral Law” Petitioning Against the Contagious Diseases Acts in Britain and Ireland: A Comparative Perspective’

Natasha Booth-Johnson (University of Birmingham): ‘Isabella Ford and the Dream of a Lesbian Utopia’

Dr Helen Sunderland (University of Oxford): ‘Schoolgirl electioneering: mock elections and political culture in girls’ schools in Edwardian England’

Panel 8.B (Room B) Politics of empire    

Isaiah Silvers (Durham University): ‘Voluntarism and political conflict in Barbados, 1807-1834’

Dr Tom Scriven (Oxford Brookes University): ‘Transatlantic democracy and the Chartist positions on slavery and abolition, 1838-1856’

Professor Andrea Major (University of Leeds): ‘Political Activism, Colonial Philanthropy, and Spaces of Empire: George Thompson in Britain and India, 183-43'

Thank you to our sponsors:

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Download a PDF of the programme here

Organise! Organise! Organise! Conference Programme



Free to attend.