Handbills, rumours, and blue cockades: Communication during the 1780 Gordon Riots

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The 1780 Gordon Riots saw London experience a week of violent anti-Catholic protest in one of the most significant episodes of civil unrest in British history. Whilst the riots have been subjected to academic study, there has yet to be sustained analysis of how participants in the riots communicated, both with each other and with observers. This article uses analysis of archival material, including accounts of the riots and court transcripts, to argue that the rioters used a variety of methods of communication that can be divided into three categories: textual, verbal, and non-linguistic. More-than-representational approaches are utilised to highlight methods of communication that are obscured by the inherently textual character of historical archives. In doing so, this article contributes to ongoing discussions about the application of more-than-representational approaches to historical geography. The analysis demonstrates that communication served multiple purposes beyond the transmission of information; it helped participants in the riots to act more effectively by developing a sense of a unified and coherent community; it contributed to the creation of affective atmospheres which enabled rioters to use threat to achieve their goals rather than bodily violence; and even allowed rioters to convey a sense of legitimacy.




Awcock, H. (2021). Handbills, rumours, and blue cockades: Communication during the 1780 Gordon Riots. Journal of Historical Geography, 74, 1–9. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jhg.2021.07.005

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