Bristol Radical History Group – Why History Matters and Why Radical History Matters More

Topic(s): 16 Beaver | No Comments

Date/Time: 13/11/2009 12:00 am

Friday 11.13.09 – Bristol Radical History Group – Why History Matters and
Why Radical History Matters More
1. About this Friday
2. About Radical History and the BRHG
3. About the Presentations
4. “Our Philosophy…”
5. “Theresa Garnette Vrs. Winston Churchill” by Anny Cullum
6. Useful links
1. About this Friday
What: Presentation, Lecture, Demonstration, and Discussion
When: Friday 11.13.09
Where: 16 Beaver Street, 4th Floor
When: 4:00-9:00 pm
Who: Free and open to all
This Friday afternoon and evening we’re excited to welcome an impressively
large number of participants from the Bristol Radical History Group (BRHG)
on their first New York visit. While there are many commonalities between
16Beaver and the BRHG as a self-organized group, project, and ongoing
series of public events and pamphlets, this is also an opportunity to hear
about the unique regional research the group has been doing under the
banner of radical history.
This event will be an extended series of lectures, presentations and
discussion by the group emphasizing the importance and relevance of
radical history. Using a diverse series of historical case studies the
speakers will demonstrate the various interventions BRHG have made into
their local and national histories including: uncovering hidden histories
/ challenging established narratives / questioning previous generations of
‘radical history’ / linking new narratives and critiques with current
This event is co-organized by ‘This is Forever’: From Inquiry to
Refusal’, an event and discussion series dedicated to understanding the
current composition of political movements and struggles using the lens of
autonomist thought. The BRHG will be doing several other events (at Brecht
Forum and Bluestockings) on the days before and after their presentation
at 16Beaver. For more information about these events or the series in
general, please see www.thisisforever.org.
2. About Radical History and the BRHG
The ‘History Workshop’ movement was founded in 1966 in Ruskin College,
Oxford, U.K. by the Marxist academic Raphael Samuel, a champion of
‘history from below.’ He famously defined this movement as being “the
belief that history is or ought to be a collaborative enterprise, one in
which the researcher, the archivist, the curator and the teacher, the
‘do-it-yourself’ enthusiast and the local historian, the family history
societies and the individual archaeologist, should all be regarded
equally engaged.”
In 2006 in the U.K., Bristol Radical History Group was formed with a view
opening up some of the hidden history of their home city to public
scrutiny, to challenge some commonly held ideas about historical events
and approach this history from ‘below’. Unlike Samuel’s ‘History
Workshop,’ the group actually came ‘from below’ its genesis being in an
expanded sports club rather than in the academy. As a result it has been
able to successfully integrate both the formal lecture with street
performance, the organic intellectual with the academic and engage the
public in the excitement of radical history by the use of different media.
Since 2006 Bristol Radical History Group (BRHG) have organised a
bewildering range of history events; staging walks, talks, gigs,
reconstructions, films, exhibitions, trips through the archives and
fireside story telling. Tonight, the Bristol Radical History Group (BRHG)
will give an account of its own formation as a group, the arc of their
activities in Bristol and beyond, as well as how the methods and
techniques employed in their history from below relates to practices of
militant research.
3. About the Presentations
Case studies will include:
‘A Barbarous and Ungovernable People’: The Miners of Kingswood Forest:
Steve Mills explains the nature of the commons and the content of
‘commoning’ by studying the English forest and its rebellious inhabitants.
Focusing on Kingswood (east of Bristol) between the 17th and 19th
centuries he examines the moral economy of the native colliers, their
struggles against enclosure and the attempts by the authorities to pacify
the area.
‘From Peterloo to Captain Swing’: Victims or Insurgents?: Roger Wilson
critiques received ‘radical’ narratives of enfranchisement and the
formation of Trade Unions in Britain by focusing on the hidden history of
uprising and insurrection in the early 19th Century. Why have some events
been ignored or denigrated and others been championed by the left and the
labour movement?
‘Votes for Ladies’: The Suffragette Movement 1903-1914: An examination of
the established narrative of the struggle for the enfranchisement of
women. Anny Cullum critiques the composition and outlook of this iconic
movement from a class perspective.
‘My Holiday Snaps’: The Indian Enclosures: Richard Grove presents an
illustrated talk charting the Adivasi’s and Dalits’ struggle to protect
their land from the encroachments sponsored by industry and the World Bank
in a contemporary world-wide wave of enclosures.
‘All Eyes on Third Street’: 3rd Street in downtown Los Angeles marks a
brutal border – where the Japanese American enclave, Little Tokyo, ends
and Skid Row, home to the densest concentration of poverty in the city,
begins. The two spaces are not disconnected. Under the watch of former NYC
Police Chief William Bratton, Skid Row has experienced the most
intensified policing strategies in the country -prompting one observer to
deem it the ‘highest sustained concentration of police officers anywhere
in the world outside of Baghdad.’ Christina Heatherton will examine the
enclosures of Skid Row, the contradictions of racial capitalism, and the
struggles against them.
4. “Our Philosophy…”
Bristol Radical History Group was formed in 2006 after the cricket and
football teams we were playing for got sick of us going on about the book
the Many Headed Hydra (see books on their website) and its connections to
Bristol. This book inspired us to look into our local history and its
connections with the revolutionary Atlantic. We organised the first
Bristol Radical History Week in Oct/Nov 2006 with the following aims:
* To open up some of the ‘hidden’ history of Bristol and the West Country
to public scrutiny and challenge some commonly held ideas about historical
* To approach this history from ‘below’ by examining the actions and
perspectives of those involved rather than the views of the contemporary
establishment histories.
* To recognise that the history of Bristol is inexorably linked to that of
the Atlantic and former British colonies through its seafaring and trading
* To engage academics, local historians and the general public (including
children) in the process through lectures, public debates, films and other
The events were a resounding success and showed that there was a
significant public interest in radical history. Since then we have
organised more than 90 events attended by several thousand people. Bristol
Radical History Group group now operates within a much wider network of
footballers, artists, techies, drunks, rioters, publicans, ranters,
ravers, academics, Cancan dancers, anarchists, stoners and other ne’r do
Through our events we have both created and expanded that network, meeting
many interesting and supportive people on the way (as well a lively bunch
of nutters and stalkers, we salute you!). We would like to say thank you
to all those who have helped and inspired us, and wish you all ‘a long
life and a merry one’.
Our events are free or of minimal cost and open for anybody to attend. The
lectures and talks are given by members of the public, local history
groups and visiting expert speakers.
Bristol Radical History Group events are organised by local people from
Bristol and are NOT funded by Universities, Political Parties, Business or
Local Government. To break even we rely on donations from the audience at
meetings and the sale of books.
5. “Theresa Garnette Vrs. Winston Churchill” by Anny Cullum
This article was distributed as a flyer during the Garnett Vrs. Churchill
re-enactment, October 31 2009:


The campaign for female suffrage began in 1865 with the introduction of
the first private members bill for an amendment for female
enfranchisement. Suffrage groups first campaigned democratically and using
constitutional means, lobbying, petitioning etc and won some small
victories in terms of women becoming more involved in public life; sitting
on school boards and becoming poor law guardians.
However, nearly 40 years later women were still disenfranchised and in
1903 a group called the Women’s Social and Political Union was set up in
Manchester. Its policy of “deeds not words” led to increasing militant
methods of campaigning by women who felt fed up with the continuing
failure of traditional methods. One of the groups icons, Emmeline
Pankhurst, described this use of militancy as “moral violence” and the
group condoned and organised hundreds of illegal activities ranging from
slapping policemen to widespread arson attacks.
The “suffragettes” as they were named by the Daily Mail also organised and
took part in harrassing and attacking Members of Parliament. 100 years
ago, on the 15th November, Winston Churchill came to Bristol to address
the Anchor society at the Colston Hall. Theresa Garnett, a suffragette who
had previously chained herself to a statue in the central lobby of the
houses of parliament to protest against the ‘brawling bill’ and who had
been accused of biting a prison warden during a previous stay in Horfield
jail was also at Temple meads that day. Churchill was walking down this
platform with his wife when he was accosted by Theresa who was brandishing
a whip. Theresa repeatedly struck Churchill screaming “Take that in the
name of the insulted women of England!”
Theresa was first arrested for assaulting Churchill but because he did not
want to appear in court he did not press charges. Instead she was charged
with disturbing the peace and sentenced to 1 month in Horfield Prison. At
this time prison officers would force feed suffragettes who went on hunger
strike as the government did not want any suffragette martyrs. The
decision to use forced feeding was taken by the Home Secretary at the time
who was Winston Churchill. Theresa was force fed during her stay in
Horfield prison and set fire to her prison cell in protest. She was made
to spend the rest of her sentence in solitary confinement in what was
known as a punishment cell, but after she was found unconscious she spent
the rest of her sentence in hospital.
6. Useful links



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