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22 October - 13 November
FoSS and ESRC logos

Riots and Roughs: The Violent Origins of English Electoral Democracy

What’s on offer?

Join us in examining the violent origins of English electoral democracy!

The main presentation will introduce you to the weird, wonderful, and dark-sides of 19-century elections in England and Wales. Drawing on the first systematic database of violent events during all 20 general elections between 1832 and 1914 in England and Wales, we will explore the patterns, causes, and consequences of electoral violence, taking a closer look at some of the amusing and disturbing events.

The presentation is followed by a drinks reception, where you can explore further violent events in your local area on our interactive map and chat to researchers on the project.

There will be a separate presentation for secondary school history and citizenship teachers following the main presentation, introducing you to the educational opportunities and material around the interactive map.  

The event can be attended in person or online and takes place on October 24, 2022 from 18:00-19:30. It is free, but a booking is necessary. Click on the "Book this event now" button on the right.

What’s it about?

Contrary to conventional wisdom, English electoral development was much more violent than even 19th-century historians believed. Using computation methods to exploit the recently digitized corpus of over 600 national, regional, and local 19th-century newspapers, political scientists and historians at Durham University have produced the first systematic database of violent events during general elections between 1832 and 1914, revealing the true extent of bribery, intimidation, and violence. The interactive hybrid presentation introduces you to those patterns, reveals the main types of electoral violence and their causes, before diving into the fascinating historical details of some of the events. The following drinks reception gives in-person attendees the opportunity to explore the event database on an interactive map and chat with researchers on the project. The surprisingly violent history of English electoral democracy sheds light on the importance of securing voter autonomy, an underexplored and underappreciated process occurring in parallel to franchise extension.

Following the main presentation there will be a separate hybrid presentation for secondary school history and citizenship teachers introducing them to the educational material produced by the project, which uses the interactive map to help pupils understand and appreciate current democracy through an investigation of 19th-century elections. 

Who’s leading the event?

The event is led by Patrick Kuhn (Durham University) and Ann Garnham (Teacher of History and Educational Consultant). Patrick is a political scientist and the principle investigator of the ESRC/AHRC-funded "19th-Century Election Violence" project. He has been investigating the causes and consequences of contemporary and historical cases of election violence since 2010. Ann is a retired secondary school history school teacher and educational consultant, who has developed KS3/4 educational material from the project's insight.

Open to

Anyone over the age of 16 is welcome. The main presentation will contain some detailed descriptions of violent events that took place during 19th-century general elections.

Of particular interest to

The main interactive presentation is aimed at the general public and will share key findings from the 19th-century election violence project offering new insights into the surprising violent development of English electoral democracy. A second educational focused presentation is aimed at secondary school history and citizenship teaching staff, introducing the project's newly developed teaching material "Understanding Democracy Through an Investigation of 19th Century Elections". The event ends with a reception allowing attendees to speak to members of the project team and explore the project's interactive map of violent events in your local area. 

Event booking deadline

20 October 2022 (in-person) and on 23 October 2022 (online)