George Edmonds and the development of Birmingham radicalism

Thomas, Susan (2021). George Edmonds and the development of Birmingham radicalism. University of Birmingham. Ph.D.

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This thesis examines the development of political and social radicalism in Birmingham in the first half of the nineteenth century through a biographical case study of the life of George Edmonds (1788-1868) and his impact on the town. Edmonds was a leading Birmingham radical and Clerk of the Peace for the borough from 1839 to 1864. The thesis considers the extent to which Edmonds’ rise from schoolmaster with a modest Baptist background to comfortably-off lawyer confirms or contradicts a traditional view of the town as a site of social mobility and class cohesion. The biographical approach allows a detailed exploration of his work and family life and of his role as a leading actor in Birmingham’s political and civic culture. This in turn facilitates a re-examination of the town’s radical tradition. While his alliance with Thomas Attwood in the Birmingham Political Union, 1830-32, supports the existence of a specific ‘Birmingham radicalism’ reflecting class co-operation, the 1816-20 period of radical activity culminating in Edmonds’ imprisonment, and the sharp divisions of the early Chartist period, suggest there was no consistent pattern.

Scrutiny of under-used records, coupled with improved search facilities for genealogical and newspaper sources, have facilitated the exploration of Edmonds’ family background, civic engagement and beliefs, including his interactions with the ideas of popular radicalism, Benthamism and Owenism. The portrait that emerges is further enhanced by an examination of Edmonds’ work on a new ‘Universal’ Alphabet and Language. The thesis adds significantly to an understanding of Birmingham’s social and political history through exploring the life of a neglected radical, George Edmonds, throwing light on social mobility, local and national radicalism and class relations in the nineteenth century.

Type of Work: Thesis (Doctorates > Ph.D.)
Award Type: Doctorates > Ph.D.
Licence: All rights reserved
College/Faculty: Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Arts & Law
School or Department: School of History and Cultures, Department of History
Funders: None/not applicable
Subjects: D History General and Old World > D History (General) > D204 Modern History
D History General and Old World > DA Great Britain


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