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The Material Culture of Mass Politics in Scotland, c. 1815 - c. 1914

Last updated: 8 February 2022

About the research

By the end of the 18th century, politically active individuals (both radical and loyalist) were well experienced in the use of materials as a means of communicating, expressing and imposing their ideologies. Such experience was not lost in the mass political action of the 19th century. The many movements which made up a century of almost relentless political agitation made good use of a widely varied arsenal of objects. Flags and banners were borne through lively processions by bodies of uniformed tradesmen, who often chose to decorate themselves with political medallions. Live demonstrations of the workplace were carted through these processions, showing men and women working at forges and spinning frames. Mass production also meant the creation of materials for less public use. Ceramic figurines, plates, cups, jugs were all emblazoned with political symbolism and sold for display within the home.

Previous research on the political movements of the 19th century has tended to focus largely on textual sources, which, while useful, are mostly reflections of the ideologies of these movements' leaders. This project will instead examine these objects and the contexts for their use in order to gain access to the individuals who utilised them. In doing so, the ideologies, motivations and beliefs of the rank and file of mass political movements can be centralised and a more complete understanding of the nature of these movements revealed.

Necklace of silver, amethysts, and green and white enamel.

Necklace of silver, amethysts, and green and white enamel, the colours of the suffragette movement: English, Birmingham, by Arthur and Georgina Gaskin, c. 1910.

Doctoral research project details

Project title

The Material Culture of Mass Politics in Scotland, c. 1815 - c. 1914

Student

Sonny Angus

Project active

2017 - 2022

Funder

AHRC Scottish Cultural Heritage Consortium (SCHC) – Collaborative Doctoral Partnership

University of Edinburgh Supervisor

Prof Gordon Pentland - School of History, Classics and Archaeology

National Museums Scotland Supervisors

David Forsyth - Scottish History & Archaeology

Research theme

Scotland's Material Heritage

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