The right to trial by jury has been traditionally acknowledged as a pillar of the English legal system. Under the principle of ‘twelve good men and true’, juries had been trusted for centuries with the responsibility of dispensing justice impartially and according to evidence. Defendants had the right to be tried ‘by their peers’, but juries had always been composed entirely of men. In 1919, reforms in the law allowed women to take their seats as jurors in a criminal trial for the first time. The trial took place here in Bristol in 1920, and not everyone was entirely happy about it.
Community Capitalism and the Governance of Victorian Bristol
"The phrase ‘community capitalism’ was coined by Charles Harvey and John Press: Before 1914, there existed in Bristol a close knit business community with a commitment to the economic well-being of the city. The leaders of this community– men like Sir George White, Albert Fry, Christopher Thomas and Joseph Wethered – formed an economic elite with powerful social and political connections. They jointly promoted many companies, held many directorships,and controlled a large number of major enterprises. This was not so much family capitalism as community capitalism".
A Rearguard Action: Bristol Toryism and the Reform Bill, 1830-32
"During the 1810s and 1820s, the Tory merchant and banker Richard Hart Davis rode high in Bristol electoral politics. Elected as one of the city's two MPs at a bye-election in 1812, he retained his seat at the general election of that year and at subsequent elections in 1818, 1820, 1826 and 1830". John Stevens looks at how Toryism was in the ascendancy, restricting the influence of Whiggism in Bristol.
The Bristol General Election of 1830
The General Election which followed the death of King George IV in June 1830 is generally remembered in Bristol as a contest between the two Whig candidates over slavery. There were, however, two other candidates. One of them scored the greatest political triumph of his career; the other mustered barely two dozen votes. John Stevens tells the story of these Bristol electorates and their political campaigns.
Topographical Prints and the Image of Bristol: 1995-1860
From the time when urbanisation was first recognised as a radical and permanent phenomenon, debates and questions surrounding the physical, political, and social consequences of urban and industrial development accompanied every topographical modification; urban migration, expansion, and the industrialisation of the landscape became the object of popular scrutiny. Throughout the 19th century, commentators continued to compile both historic and prophetic accounts of rapidly evolving conurbations in an attempt to comprehend the future of these sites and their implications for the British nation and empire. In this article, Katy Layton Jones examines some of the ways in which engraved images of Bristol produced during the first half of the 19th century were informed by, and in turn informed, changing attitudes to that city and to urbanisation in general.
Mayors, Serjeants and Constables: The Politics of Everyday Life in Urban Tudor England
The urban elites of provincial 15th and 16th-century English towns and cities have been widely researched by scholars. The mayors, aldermen, common councillors and other elite civic office-holders of such towns, it has been argued, held near omnipotent political power. Indeed, it is often acknowledged that the period from the late 15th through to the mid-16th centuries witnessed growing oligarchic government in many more towns and cities, in the process handing greater political control to smaller numbers of civic elites. In emphasising the political power of these elites, however, there is the danger that our perceptions of 16th-century urban governments and urban politics have become rather uncritical. In this article, James Lee recovers the political activity of a variety of lesser civic officials in Tudor Bristol, first considering the constitutional frameworks in which such officials operated, before examining what kind of political authority such individuals were capable of exercising.
Sea Change and C. Claxton: an evolving Bristolian, 1800-1850
In this article, Geoff Mead illustrates the interesting overlap between old and new worlds that characterised the early nineteenth century through the story of Captain Christopher Claxton. His story exemplifies the dynamic tensions, changes and continuities of the period. His activities sometimes literally bridged old and new worlds. Yet this 'Age of Reform' also increasingly challenged his political and social perceptions. This interpretation of Claxton's long life and work in early steam navigation and in iron-bridge building illustrates well how at the cusp of technological advance changes in culture follow.
Urban Oligarchy, Conflict and Concealment: Religion, Politics and Society in late 16th-Century Bath
The Reformation of English towns has provided an attractive field of research for scholars in recent decades, yet Bath’s Tudor experience has been persistently overlooked. In the late sixteenth century two events disturbed the religious and social equilibrium of the city: the attempted amalgamation of the inner-city parishes, and an inquisition into alleged concealed lands. These events had profound immediate and long-term social, political and religious repercussions. In this article, Emma Corker highlights the significance of these events, which have often been overlooked by those interested in Reformation history.
Captain Bishop of the…The Military Career of George Bishop
In 1668, the King's council was informed that George Bishop, 'The Grand Ringleader (or Archbishop) of the Quakers had been buried in Bristol 'attended by a more numerous company than ever I yet saw at any funeral'. If the title of 'Archbishop' was a play on his name, it was a barbed one: Quakers rejected all forms of priesthood. But Bishop was indeed famous, or infamous, as a Quaker leader, bracketed at times with George Fox. He had been especially active as a writer, and for some time maintained at Bristol the sort of secretariat and information centre for which his previous career had well qualified him. In this article, Jonothan Harlow reconstructs the story of the man who was entrusted with the responsibility of ‘discovering conspiracies against the Commonwealth’.
The Transition of Taunton from ‘wicked town’ to ‘peaceable borough’
In the years after 1600 Taunton was marked by a heady mixture of radical Puritanism and the volatile wool trade. Together these pitched Taunton into the centre of the Civil War in the area and, on two occasions in the second half of the seventeenth century, into open rebellion against the government. William Gibson follows Taunton’s transition from a centre of rebellion to peaceable borough in the eighteenth century.