I was pleased to host Katrina Navickas at the socialist history seminar at the Institute of Historical Research on 8th February (the seminar was podcast and will appear on the IHR site in due course).
Ms Navickas talked to her recently published book on the politics of space in nineteenth century England.
Below is an extract from my edited volume, A History of Riots (CSP 2015) that touches briefly on one of the areas raised at the seminar. That is how people fought for control of their local area against the State. It may be that such battles were a throwback to a pre-industrial past, except of course, that barricades remain very much in use. In addition if this is an outdated form of resistance then what alternative models are available? Perhaps the occupation of factories, as in Italy in the early 1920s, is one?
In any case the book raises many interesting points for discussion and further research
In his book The Insurgent Barricade, primarily about nineteenth century France, Mark Traugott has a chapter titled “The Barricade Conquers Europe” In the introductory paragraphs Traugott makes it clear that while much of mainland Europe did see barricades in 1848, England, the most heavily industrialised country, did not, and neither did Russia, the least heavily industrialised.
Traugott is not quite up with the 1848 political geography of the British Isles but does note that there were barricades (briefly) in Ireland during the Year of Revolutions. He argues that their absence on the British mainland was due to the possibility that the Chartists felt there might be a chance of achieving political change through reform rather than revolution.
No doubt some did, but as David Goodway has argued, London radical politics in particular was the heir to a revolutionary conspiratorial tradition which saw its last significant presence in 1848. Those who plotted a revolutionary uprising in central London in August 1848, as we have seen, did indeed have a plan to barricade much of central London against troops.
Earlier in the year, in late May and early June, Bradford may also have intended an armed rising, and John Saville notes drilling and organising of Chartists to this possible end.
Barricades, of course, might be used as much for revolts or revolutionary uprisings as riots, and there is something about the mobility of many riots that works against the idea of a barricade. The “mob” passes through and passes on in many instances. However, there are equally many occasions when riots have included barricades, often to protect areas and keep the forces of authority out. Free Derry in Northern Ireland is an excellent example of this in the post-1945 period.