“Some Examples Should Be Made”: Prosecuting Reform Bill Rioters in 1831–32

  • Steve Poole
Part of the Palgrave Histories of Policing, Punishment and Justice book series (PHPPJ)


Following the House of Lords’ rejection of the parliamentary Reform Bill in the autumn of 1831, severe rioting broke out in a number of English towns. In the judicial retribution that followed, some 259 people were prosecuted, seven of them hanged and 43 transported. This essay takes a detailed look at the local circumstances and the choice of courts in which suspected rioters were brought to trial and the variable outcomes achieved as a consequence. Reform was a divisive and regionally nuanced issue and shaping a measured response was neither straightforward nor uniform. While prisoners at Nottingham and Bristol were tried with rigour by Special Commission, magistrates at Loughborough, Mansfield and Worcester were keen to confine cases to local courts, eschewing judicial terror in the interests of healing social wounds.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of Arts, Creative Industries and EducationUniversity of the West of EnglandBristolUK

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