The paper examines the nature of the relationship between Chartists and the memory of late eighteenth century radicals, such as Thomas Paine and Major John Cartwright. It will do so by examining representations of these figures in the radical press during the nascent years of Chartism, 1837-1841. Chartist newspapers, like the Northern Star, captured and conveyed the commemoration of such radicals at Chartist meetings, as well as dinners and soirees. Here, Chartists remembered their radical heroes through tributes, such as toasts and portraiture, as well as evoking their principles and works in political discussions. In its efforts to report these meetings and commemoration culture, the Chartist press became a conduit of radical memory. This paper will explore this aspect of Chartist culture by looking at the ways in which late eighteenth century radicals were represented in print. It builds on recent research that has examined protest heritage, such as Matthew Roberts’s work on a Chartist ‘paper pantheon’ of radical heroes. It seeks to contribute to these studies by considering not just those who were honored, but the multiple layers which formed the memories and remembrance of great personalities of political reform, such as Thomas Paine and William Cobbett. Through this approach further discussion will be given to the complex nature of memory, any absences or omissions that existed, and whether contemporaries agreed with the way in which the past was portrayed. By taking an approach that draws on a heavier use of memory theory, the boundaries of Chartist commemoration will be considered, such as asking whether Chartist remembrance ever drifted into nostalgia or whether it remained purely reverential? Through such interrogations we can better understand the representations Chartists constructed of late eighteenth century radicals, their motivations for doing so, and, how this past was shaped under the tutelage of the Chartists.
Joshua Dight is a Graduate Teaching Assistant at Edge Hill University. I am now entering the second year of my PhD which explores the long memory of eighteenth century radicals throughout the nineteenth century using newspaper archives. In tandem with my PhD research, I teach on a number of first year undergraduate modules. I have an interdisciplinary Masters degree from the University of York where I studied Eighteenth Century Representations and Context. I have studied abroad in Canada and have a History BA honours from the University of Hertfordshire where I first started studying eighteenth century radicalism.
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