Skip to main content

ePortfolio of Dave Steele

The Crowd in Britain 1780-1850

Probing the projection of power by radical protest crowds


Great Chartist Gathering, Kennington Common, April 10 1848, Daguerrotype by William Kilburn

My research explores the dynamics of political crowds in Britain in the period following the French Revolution. 
I am investigating what inspired ordinary people to congregate in public open spaces and how effective these events were in effecting political change, particularly the campaign for electoral enfranchisement.

Using Home Office Papers, trial reports, and Newspaper archives from the Spencean/Chartist period. I am conducting a series of case studies of both radical and loyalist crowds to test how useful multi-disciplinary crowd theories are as a tool for the crowd historian.

I am particularly interested in practical details – how did people hear about and travel to events? How could they hear what was being said, and how did the subsequent reporting affect outcomes? To what extent did charismatic leaders control crowds and, ultimately, did they achieve their objectives?

I am pursuing a line of research into crowd size. For some events it is possible to quantify attendance in order to corroborate or challenge reported attendance figures. My early findings indicate that crowds tended to be much smaller than percieved and that this has remained largely unquestioned by historians.

Research Questions
  • Did crowds have to be numerically large in order to be politically significant?
  • Was the prioritising of moral over physical force an astute strategy or a naïve failure?
  • How effective was the Mass Platform? What was the catalyst for transition from peaceful crowd to riot?
  • Quantitative and spatial analyses of the agency, impact and legitimacy of crowds.
  • Case studies comparing orderly and disorderly crowds.
  • Archival research to investigate the dialectics of negotiation en-masse
Conference Papers

17 June 2017 Rickmansworth - Chartism Day
Presented Paper: ‘Biscuits, Spirits and Salt-Pork: Military Provisioning for the Kennington Chartist Meeting, 1848’.

9 June 2017 Derby - Radicalism and Popular Protest in Britain, 1790-1820
Presented Paper: ‘Incitement vs Restraint in Early Nineteenth-Century Protest Crowds’


June 2018 - Consultant on a chapter in Comma Press Vol 2 Protest - Stories of Resistance (See Vol 1)

June 2018 - Finalist Warwick SkillsForge 3 Minute Thesis - <Play Audio>vol.jpg

May 19 2018 - Gave public lecture at St Marks Church, Kennington <Play Audio> vol.jpg
 Salt-Pork & Daguerreotypes – Unpacking archival evidence of the 1848 subjugation of Chartists.

January - June 2018 – Consultant to Kennington Chartist Project


June 2018 - Faculty Winner of SkillsForge Research Poster Competition


May 2018 - Awarded additional Royal Historical Society Funding to run conference: Politics of Sedition

February 2018 - Awarded joint Humanities Research Centre Doctoral Fellowship to run conference: Politics of Sedition


PhD Candidate, University of Warwick, 2016-present

MA History, University of Warwick, 2010-2012

BA History, University of Warwick, 2004-2009

Unpublished work:

MA Dissertation - Public History:
A foot in both camps
- Defining the role of the professional historian in the media age.

MA Quantitative Research Essay:
An examination of the crowd size at the Peterloo Massacre


MA Hanoverian Politics Essay:
To what extent does continuity rather than change
define popular protest 1810-1840?







Dave Steele

Dave Steele

dave dot steele at warwick dot ac dot uk

Supervisor: Dr Sarah Richardson

Upcoming Conference:
The Politics of Sedition in Long Nineteenth Century Britain:
A Social and Cultural Discourse

Sat 10 Nov 2018

One-Day Multi-Disciplinary Conference organised by Amy Galvin-Elliott & Dave Steele - Warwick History PhD Candidates & HRC Doctoral Fellows 2018-19