Lord Liverpool and the radical threat

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How serious was the Radical challenge to Lord Liverpool’s Government in the period from 1812 to 1822? Radicals were groups of people throughout Britain campaigning for change; some historians believed they wanted a revolution while others believed they simply wanted a reform. These radicals had caused serious problems for a previous British Prime minister, Pitt, and these problems continued throughout Liverpool’s premiership. This radical threat has been debated between the historians over the years on the seriousness of the events that followed because of the radical threat. During the period 1812- 1822 many radical threats occurred and historians have been split on the level of seriousness they posed. Luddism arose from the recent development of machinery over taking people’s jobs and so people, known as ‘luddites’, would go round the country making a series of attacks on mills, breaking machinery. The nature of these Luddite disturbances has been the subject of debate within historians with three main view points emerging. Firstly, the Luddites were industrial hooligans, secondly that Luddism had purely economic origins and aims and finally Luddism had political as well as economic aims. The first two interpretations wouldn’t have directly effected Liverpool’s government; however, the final interpretation stating it may have had political as well as economic aims, leads people to think this may have been a serious radical challenge to Liverpool’s government. Liverpool’s Government certainly thought so and made machine-breaking a capital offence and posted over 12,000 troops to the Luddite areas. Following the end of Luddism, the period between 1812- 1815 witnessed relatively little in the way of popular protest, however, post 1815 saw the revival of radical activity and was described by historian E.P. Thompson as ‘the heroic age of popular radicalism’.
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