As popular political activity across Britain became increasingly focussed on parliament following the Napoleonic Wars, the importance of radical figureheads to the maintenance of national politics grew. Simultaneously, mass production and a rising consumer culture drove a proliferation in the production of representations of these leaders. The creation and use of these images have been the subject of much scholarship, which has sought to understand the means by which lay radicals drew themselves into a national political identity. Less well-examined are the many representations of these leaders which were used within organised marches. Tilly argued that the turn towards parliamentary politics was a driving factor in the gradual replacement of the riotous mob by the formalised procession. These processions were highly ritualistic events which solidified the political and social identities of their participants. Thus, they were saturated with a visual culture which offers much to historians who aim to understand the ideologies and identities of rank-and-file reformers. While there is much overlap between political portraiture produced for use within the home and that which appeared in political procession, there are also significant disparities. Satirical representations of leaders were often employed to draw them further in line with the politics and social identities of marchers. Further, lampooning of opponents was often barbed and violent, in contrast with prevailing trends of respectable portraiture. This paper, therefore, looks to the flags and theatre of these processions in Scotland, in order to understand the role of the ‘gentleman leaders’ within radical identities.
Sonny Angus is a PhD student at the University of Edinburgh, working in collaboration with National Museums Scotland to produce a thesis on the material culture of franchise reform movements in nineteenth-century Scotland. His previous research has examined medieval romanticism in Scottish national identity, Christianity’s role in Scottish Chartism, and the role of consumption in Scottish radical identity.
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