Monday, 10 October 2016

Three Rebellions…a second edition

There have been important change in the Rebellion Trilogy, a series of books that were written between 2004 and 2010 and published in 2010, 2011 and 2013.  The series will become a Quartet with the addition of a fourth volume entitled Ireland, Revolution and Diaspora 1882-1923. This was, in part, the result of a comment from a colleague who suggested that I’d looked at the aperitif and starter but hadn’t really got on to the main course. This echoed my own feeling about the Irish dimension in the series. I had started to tell the story but it had yet to reach the ‘freedom’ in my Famine, Fenians and Freedom, 1840-1882.
The first volume in the series is Three Rebellions: Canada, South Wales and Australia that considers the context, causes and consequences of three major popular disturbances in the British Empire during the early years of Queen Victoria’s long reign. In the Canadas during 1837 and 1838, at Newport in South Wales in 1839 and at the Eureka Stockade in Ballarat, Victoria in Australia in 1854 thousands of largely working people took up arms against the forces of colonial rule and oppression. What linked these three events was a popular form of constitutionalism, linked to British radicalism and especially to Chartism that sought constitutional and democratic change but which was denied by colonial oligarchies that sought to retain political power in their own hands. The rebellions each failed when faced by the overwhelming force of the colonial state but, although they were defeated militarily, each played a significant role in the emergence of more responsive and responsible government. Today, the losers are better remembered than those who defeated them in 1837-1838, 1839 and 1854.

The first edition of Three Rebellions was completed in 2008 and finally published in early 2010. In the intervening years I have continued to grapple with the issues raised in the original volume publishing more detailed discussion of the rebellions in Britain, Canada and Australia.The major difference between the first and second editions is that I have significantly reduced the length of the work by taking out the foreword, relevant in 2009 but not today, and the chapters that dealt with the links between the three rebellions and how the rebellions have been remembered and commemorated. My reason for doing this—other than making the work tighter—is that I have included revised versions of these chapters in my Chartism: A Global History and other essays, published earlier this year.

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