This thesis examines how material space, meaningful place and custom shaped the forms and functions of protest in rural Somerset and Dorset between 1780 and 1867. Through their everyday lives and interactions with the local environment, countryfolk struggled against not only landscape change but also political exclusivity, poor working conditions and cultural transformations. Through analysis of both major protests and everyday acts of resistance, this study reveals how rural landscapes gave tangible substance and structure to otherwise intangible traditions, identities, customs and political beliefs. It argues that during their acts of resistance, rural protestors sought to materially remake the landscape to align with their moral beliefs and customary relationships. For these men and women, the physicality of a contested space had just as much meaning as any symbolic performance. This thesis also illustrates the importance of placing major acts of protest within the context of local everyday lives, social relationships and legacies of resistance. Answering calls to examine resistance ‘holistically’, this thesis examines the role that local socio-economic conditions, ritual, custom and physical spaces had in shaping the repertoires of protest movements, whilst also influencing how rural communities perceived resistance. Due to their focus on local spaces, customs and identities, rural communities in Somerset and Dorset have been characterised as venal, deferent or sporting limited political horizons. Conversely, this thesis reveals how popular protests and rituals frequently incorporated national and international concerns. Contesting local spaces and utilising customary performances did not prevent rural men and women from connecting to wider networks and mentalities. Rather, by seizing and remaking key political sites protestors could contest national political issues from their locality. During their protests, rural people attempted to physically and symbolically construct, or reconstruct, an ‘ideal’ world, to be enforced in their locality and the nation beyond.
|Date of Award||23 Jan 2020|
- The University of Bristol
|Supervisor||Richard D Sheldon (Supervisor) & James Thompson (Supervisor)|