Organise! Organise! Organise! Collective Action, Associational Culture and the Politics of Organisation in the British Isles, c.1790-1914

Durham University in collaboration with the History of Parliament, and supported by the Leverhulme Trust, are hosting a conference in Durham, Thursday-Friday 20-21 July 2023. The Call for Papers will close on 31 January 2023. The conference forms part of Dr Naomi Lloyd-Jones’s Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship, during which she is investigating the development of modern party organisation. For further details of the event see below or visit the conference website here.

A black and white image showing a large crowd at a meeting in a large open area. The crowd have their backs towards the photographer and are looking at the speakers. There are buildings in the distance.
Chartist meeting on Kennington Commons, 1848, PD via Wikimedia Commons

This conference will explore why, how, to what ends, and with what effects people in Britain and Ireland organised and were organised for political purposes during the long nineteenth century, one that has been seen as an age of association. Political networks were established, maintained, supported, and opposed in a plethora of incarnations and circumstances, and organisational ideas and practices played important roles in shaping and navigating a rapidly changing political world. Organised, collective political action had diverse impacts, actual and perceived, on political culture, the political system, and the body politic, and on public and private life. Contemporaries debated, encouraged and feared its potential power to politicise and mobilise, to make demands and disseminate information, or to suppress. Associational culture both encompassed and challenged a range of behaviours, belongings, communications, and sites. It made claims to include and represent, but also to exclude, on the basis of, for example, class, religion, gender, or race. Participation in and marginalisation from political activism could be encountered emotionally, materially, physically, spatially, and sonically. The politics of organisation was intimately linked to how people thought, felt, spoke, and heard about, and did and experienced, politics.

The conference aims at deepening our understanding of the complex extra-parliamentary and popular politics of organisation. It seeks to drive forward debate about the meanings, modes, extents, and locations of participatory and representational political culture and of formal and informal politics. The conference will foster discussion of these dynamics both outside and during elections, the latter having dominated the scholarship. It hopes to move beyond the parameters of the influential but now decades-old New Political History and to bring together fresh approaches to histories of politics in the long nineteenth century that encompass research on, for example, histories of emotions, material culture, gender, race, and space. The study of grassroots collective action and associational culture offers an opportunity for innovative interpretations that cut across traditional subfield boundaries and help us think about ‘the political’ and ‘political history’ in new ways. The keynote address will be given by Professor Katrina Navickas (University of Hertfordshire), historian of protest, collective action, and contested spaces in Britain. Proposals of c.250-300 words for 20-minute papers should be sent to by Tuesday 31 January 2023. Topics and themes related to the history of political organising in England, Ireland, Scotland, and/or Wales could include but are not limited to:

  • Party-political organisations, single-issue campaigns, protest movements, pressure groups
  • Urban, rural, local, regional, national, transnational connections and contexts
  • Structures, strategies, theories, motivations, practices
  • Aims, demands, audiences, outcomes, contributions
  • Participation, representation, and exclusion based on gender, race, religion, class, work, home, education, age, health
  • Sites, spaces, places
  • Sights, sounds, smells
  • Material, print, visual cultures
  • Emotions, experiences, performances
  • Cultures, rituals, memories, languages
  • Identity, sociability, community, the self, agency
  • Tradition, generations, expertise, knowledge
  • Power, authority, government, the law

We hope to publish a selection of papers as a special issue of Parliamentary History for 2026 (for submission in February 2025). Depending on pending funding applications, we hope to make some bursaries available to postgraduate and ECR presenters.

This entry was posted in Conferences and seminars, Forthcoming events and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Organise! Organise! Organise! Collective Action, Associational Culture and the Politics of Organisation in the British Isles, c.1790-1914

  1. Pingback: Happy New Year from the Victorian Commons! | The Victorian Commons

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s