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Political turmoil? Protests outside Parliament? Hatreds spewed in public? Angry, incoherent mobs? Nothing new. We've been there before, plenty of times. Take 1780 for example… THREAD 1/
You think Brexit's a mess? In 1780, the United Kingdom - England, especially - was in a right state. It was tackling three separate foes - fighting to make America Great Britain again, while also lobbing cannon balls at the French & Spain on the high seas. /2
War like that put some degree of strain on the nation's producting power - especially as it entered the Industrial Revolution. Wages were low, and prices of staples rising. It also led to a degree of stress, of imagined threats and conspiracies lurking down alleyways. /3
In 1780 it was the Catholics who were boogeymen, the objects of fear. Hell, they'd been an object of hatred and fear for the preceeding 200 years, since the final break with Rome. The fact that the UK was at war with two Catholic powers only heightened tensions. /4
Two years before, however, Parliament made what seemed a surprising decision to many. The Papists Act of 1778 was passed to allow Catholics to join the armed forces, & granted more liberties. The legislation was supposed to help bolster the armed forces, who were under strain. /5
This was a decision that had not gone down well in many quarters, with many forming the belief that if this legislation was to remain in place, then Catholics would rebel and deliver the country into the hands of Catholic powers. /6
Chief in opposition to the Papists Act was Lord George Gordon, a young MP who was known for his fiery, overblown rhetoric. His speeches promised all manner of terrible fates were the Act to remain in place, and he led a number of meetings campaigning it. /7
On the 2nd of June, 1780, Gordon was at the front of a protest that led to the Houses of Parliament to present a petition against the Act. Once there, the crowd lost its calm, and invaded the House of Commons. A detachment of troops ousted them, however. /8
Driven from Parliament, the crowd swelled as it made its way through the city, and began rioting - first smashing up Catholic places of worship, then the property of anybody who looked like they were reasonably well off. In no time at all, the mob was in control. /9
Migrant areas, such as what is now Spitalfields and Shoreditch, full of refugees from various conflicts on the Continent, were attacked. Houses were burned, shops ransacked. We may never know the true number of injured or maimed. /10
The riots continued for days. The infamous Newgate Prison was destroyed, with prisoners escaping. Mobs moved into rich neighbourhoods to the west, attacking the houses of the upper classes. 'King Mob' ruled in large parts of the City and Westminster. /11
Things reached a crescendo on the 7th, when a mob attacked the Bank of England. Of course, this would not, & could not stand - troops repelled attackers, shooting hundreds dead & injuring thousands. Hundreds were arrested & death sentences were carried out on at least 20. /12
Peace would finally be restored after a few days, and rebuilding soon began, but the national mood was one of shame. Many of the emerging middle classes deplored the violence and spoke out against it, blaming the poor.

Sounds familiar. /13
As for Gordon, he got away with it - mostly. He served a cushy sentence at the Tower for his part, and would actually convert to Judaism before dying in prison, for an unrelated matter, in his 40s. /14
So yeah, this? This is nothing! Nothing, I tell you! Get back to me when the mob are looting Pret, or setting fire to a frou-frou Strand boutique. Until then, this lot? Yawn… /15
To learn more about the Gordon Riots, this is an excellent resource to begin. /16 google.com/url?sa=t&sourc…
Finally, this @GreshamCollege talk by @HaywoodProf goes into greater detail on the apocalyptic violence. /FIN gresham.ac.uk/lectures-and-e…
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