A Second Life for Sheffield's 18th-Century Sons of Liberty

Sheffield Iris

A new School of English project will be publishing poems of protest written by Sheffield citizens that were last seen amidst the pages of Sheffield's radical press at the end of the 18th century.

The rich history of Sheffield throughout the 20th and 21st centuries has been one bound up in stories of civic and social activism. This new project from the School of English traces this trend back at least as far as the turn of the nineteenth century, and to the pages of two radical newspapers in particular: The Sheffield Register (1787-1794) and The Sheffield Iris (1794-1825).

Directed by Dr Hamish Mathison and researched by Dr Adam James Smith, ‘Sheffield: Print, Protest and Poetry, 1790-1810’ is a new AHRC-funded cultural engagement project focusing on the full collections of these newspapers held in University Library Special Collections. Both the Register and the Iris sported a regular feature dubbed ‘Poetry Corner.’ This section saw the publication of a different poem each week (either written by a Sheffield resident or aggregated from elsewhere) but usually addressed to one of a series of recurrent themes: religious integration, racial equality, worker’s rights, universal access to education and political enfranchisement for all.

This project takes these poems as its focus, exploring the ways in which these papers established and utilised a network of poets to offer an accessible, reactionary and effective voice for social and political protest in Sheffield at the end of the eighteenth century. In doing so, this project also offers these poems (written in Sheffield by Sheffield residents) a second life, freed from the constraints of 18th-century serial publications and finally allowed to speak for themselves.

Every Monday the project is releasing a newly-edited poem on their website, along with supporting blog posts and podcasts. The project’s digital anthology will be made available in its entirety on 27 May. The launch will take place at Bank Street Arts as part of a larger dedicated to Sheffield’s varied and ongoing history as a platform for popular protest.

More information

Please visit the website here.

Twitter: @18C_ShefProtest
Facebook: Sheffield: Print, Protest, Poetry
Email: shefprotest@gmail.com

Tags: Sheffield, Local History, Bank St Arts, AHRC, Arts Enterprise, English, Protest, 18th Century