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Swing riots

Swing riots, 1830. Collective action by agricultural workers began in east Kent late in August 1830 with two attacks on the hated threshing-machines, which were believed to take winter work away from agricultural labourers. The disturbances continued until December and spread to much of southern and eastern England. The protesters combined demands for higher wages and tithe reductions with destruction of the threshing-machines. Barns and hay ricks were fired, and threatening letters—often signed by the mythical ‘ Captain Swing’—were sent in all directions. Hobsbawm and Rudé, in their classic study of the riots, considered them to be mainly a southern and East Anglian phenomenon, but subsequent research has revealed just how widespread Swing riots really were, with virtually every county south of the Scottish border involved. More than 1,400 separate incidents have been recorded. In the wake of the disturbances 19 people were executed, 481 transported, and more than 700 imprisoned.

John Beckett

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