Politics, government and society in Edinburgh, 1780-1833

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  • William Brydon


The aim of this thesis is to analyse the development and impact of popular political consciousness in Edinburgh during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Particular attention is drawn to the growing political assertiveness of the middling orders in Edinburgh and to the threat which this posed both to the traditional political establishment in the city and to the established political constitution. The first section of the thesis examines some of the mechanisms by which popular political consciousness was nurtured and expressed. The structure, membership and influence of the myriad clubs and societies which flourished in Edinburgh are examined in Chapter Two. The role and influence of the press in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries are examined in Chapter Three. The second section of the thesis (Chapter Four) looks at the Town Council of Edinburgh, the lynchpin of government in the city. The third section of the thesis examines the impact which growing popular political consciousness had on the pattern of politics and government in Edinburgh. Chapter Five examines the municipal and parliamentary elections of 1780, in which disputes within the political establishment helped fuel growing politicisation out-of-doors. Chapter Six examines the radical Friends of the People reform movement of the 1790s and the reaction to it within the community. Chapter Seven discusses the origins and development of the Edinburgh Police Commission, which was set up in 1805. The role of the Commission is discussed in depth, as are the social and political themes which the controversies surrounding the Commission helped develop. Chapters Eight and Nine chart the course of reform in Edinburgh between the end of the Napoleonic Wars and the coming of the great reforms of the 1830s.


Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
    Award dateJan 1988