Radical History Project

To coincide with the 200th Anniversary of the Radical Rising of 1820, Erasmus Research is launching a new Radical History Project. Focusing on the complex Story of the Radical martyrs Baird and Hardie, this project will reconstruct and reassess the relevance this ‘suppressed history’ has for Scotland today.

Erasmus Research has discovered a unique source in the form of a serialisation of The Story of Baird and Hardie in the Stirling Sentinel published in 1889. It is unclear who wrote this history, but what is clear is that the serialisation, in 21 chapters over as many weeks, provides some new insights into this intriguing story of a radical period in Scotland’s history that has largely been suppressed.

Indeed, as the serialisation itself begins:

“It is probable that the names of Baird and Hardie are familiar to most of our readers. They are not, so far as we know, to be found in any school book (at all events our school books were silent regarding them), nor is any prominence given to them in the various histories of Scotland. Fifty years ago it would have been considered “bad form” for an historian to notice two men in humble life who had been executed for their misdeeds, and only the most Radical of newspapers could afford to allude to them without forfeiting the good opinion of their subscribers. After the passing of the Reform Bill of 1832, when it was seen that after all Reform was not a thing to be afraid of, public opinion became more tolerant, and Baird’s and Hardie’s names could be risked in conversation, although the high and dry Tory would be sure to turn up his aristocratic nose at the mention of such a vulgar pair. ” Stirling Sentinel February 1889

Having transcribed this history from the original microfiche of the 1889 Stirling Sentinel, Erasmus Research will publish the entire serialisation on our website. Each chapter will appear in two parts, published weekly. We will also post supplementary information as well as a series of guest blogs. The big idea here is that collectively, we can share our sources as well as thoughts and analyses in order to obtain as profound an understanding as possible of this complex and controversial period in history.

The Sentinel serialisation makes a strong, and indeed compelling, case that the involvement of government spies was much greater than most contemporary historians have thought. Indeed the infiltration of what appears to be a vast and sophisticated network of spies, seems to have a much greater impact upon not only the capture of the brave martyrs, but upon the events that lead to Battle at Bonnymuir itself.

We hope that you will join us in exploring the events that led to the Radical Rising of 1820, the Battle of Bonnymuir, the trials, convictions and the executions of our radical martyrs, John Baird and Andrew Hardie. We hope that this project will uncover some new sources and perspectives as well as facilitating new ways of understanding this intriguing period in Scotland’s radical history.