Britain in the eighteenth century was deeply divided; riots over politics, food and religion were endemic. Despite the relative liberty of English institutions; the penal code was the harshest in Europe - stealing a handkerchief was a capital offence. In this brilliant history of the hidden side of the eighteenth century, Ian Gilmour argues that violence usually stemmed from the incompetence or arrogance of the ruling class. He tells the story of the great rebellions - of Scotland in 1715 and 1745, of Ireland in 1798 - and the famous episodes of Wilkes and Gordon. But he also paints a vivid picture of the vicious discipline of the army, skulduggery at elections, the class violence of industrial struggles, the ritual violence of duelling and the swingeing punishment of poachers.
"A wonderful book... a masterly piece of historical writing... The talent he shares with the greatest historians such as E. P. Thompson and Christopher Hill is the gift of the historical imagination... A brilliant tapestry." -- Michael Foot Observer "A considerable achievement." -- E. P. Thompson Guardian "Impressive... Anybody interested in England's past should read this richly stimulating book. Let is hope that it will soon appear in paperback." -- Christopher Hill Tribune "The book is both a revelation and a compulsive read." -- Robert Blake Country Life "Richly documented and eloquent... challenges popular myths of the English and puts the record straight." -- Roy Porter The Times Literary Supplement