Luddite Memorial Lecture 2017

Dr Katrina Navickas

Places and Spaces of Protest in the Early 19th Century West Riding

Dr Navickas, Reader in History at the University of Hertfordshire

The 2017 Luddite Memorial Lecture was given by Dr Katrina Navickas, Reader in History at the University of Hertfordshire. Not only has Dr Navickas written about many different aspects of popular protest and social movements – she provided the keynote lecture for Huddersfield’s bi-centenary Luddite Commemoration in 2012 – but she has also been investigating how digital mapping can reflect and further her research. Dr Navickas grew up in Rochdale and her most recent book, Protest and the Politics of Space and Place, 1789-1948 (available in paperback), focuses on events in West Yorkshire and Lancashire.

In her Huddersfield lecture Dr Navickas explored the protest spaces of the West Riding and showed how the county’s distinct topography and spaces within its towns shaped the democratic movements of the early nineteenth century.

Crowds entering Halifax via North Bridge 1842

Dr Navickas explains: “I’ve been mapping protest sites across northern England for a long time – finding out when and where people used to meet to campaign for the vote, workers’ rights, and protest against injustices. I’m interested in how political meetings differed according to their spaces – whether they were in a square, a back room of a pub, or on a moor. My favourite sites in particular are in the Pennines, especially Blackstone Edge, where generations of political movements went to hold meetings”.

Cyril Pearce, Chair of the Huddersfield Local History Society, welcomed Dr Navickas’ emphasis on the importance of place in the history of political radicalism in Britain. He says it reminds him of the trade unionist and political activist Ben Turner (later Sir Ben Turner and MP for Batley) who looked back on the places and spaces that he came to know well during his political campaigning, “…Skircoat moor, Halifax, Hunslet, Holbeck and Woodhouse moors and Vicars Croft, Leeds; Dockers Square, Bradford; Market Cross, Huddersfield; The Green, Heckmondwike; Dewsbury and Batley Market Places; Queen’s Park, Morley; the Bull Ring, Wakefield, and other places were kept alive week after week… Dr Navickas will explain how these natural and man-made arenas, in spite of all manner of opposition, came to be such an important part of how popular politics was conducted in the 19th century West Riding”.

The lecture was introduced by historian Professor Tim Thornton, the University’s deputy Vice-Chancellor, who welcomed the way in which this annual lecture series is continuing to develop. “”Katrina Navickas promises to add a further new dimension to the already rich record of talks that have taken place under the banner of the Annual Luddite Memorial Lecture. Her focus on protest in spaces and places will be of interest to specialists and to a more general audience concerned with the region’s heritage, and is testimony to the continuing and highly productive relationship between Huddersfield Local History Society and the University”.

Dr Navickas worked with the British Library on a digital tool called Political Meetings Mapper to map Chartist meetings advertised in the Northern Star newspaper, based in Leeds.

The lecture is summarised on the University of Huddersfield web site.