Bristol from Below

Law, Authority and Protest in a Georgian City

By Steve Poole and Nicholas Rogers
Book Review Details
Author: Steve Poole and Nicholas Rogers
Publisher: Boydell Press
Edition: 2017
Page Details
Section: Book Reviews =>
Subjects: Radical Bristol, Riots & Disturbances
Tags: , , , , ,
Posted: Modified:

Within the Bristol Radical History Group (BRHG), we are constantly pressing for more history from below.  Researching, writing and celebrating our history.  The history of those who have built, fed, and run Bristol through the ages, and those who have just lived by their wits.  Therefore, we were quite excited to see this book.

However, the book is priced at £70.  Yes, that’s right, this is not a typo. Seventy pounds sterling.  Whilst most of the present day working classes are struggling, with austerity, cuts, and looking at food banks before perhaps becoming homeless.  These two are charging £70 for a book about our ancestors.  Historical voyeurism one comrade called it. Who are they writing this for, handful of academics sat in their ivory towers, looking down their noses at us?

Anyway, Poole and Rogers, the likes of us are used to living by our wits in a society where much is against us.  A resourceful friend picked up a copy, and it was relocated to the masses, for free.  A few working-class historians have read it, and I for one must admit, it is a very good book.  Well written, erudite and engaging.  Personally, I learnt a lot from the pages, and it is such a shame that many like me, who would have been interested have been priced out.

There are chapters on food riots, press gangs, conflict with outlaying communities; the infamous Kingswood colliers being prominent.  There is much about the conflict with Bristol society, prior to the Municipal Reform Act of 1835.  The ruling Corporation were a self-electing, and self-serving oligarchy.  Detested by most Bristolians.  This struggle came to the head during the 1831 reform riots.  Sometimes seen as a fight for parliamentary reform, but for most Bristolians, the reform was needed much closer to home.

Also, the book examines Bristol’s mercantile history, and the problems they had with the local authority, and the central government and their wars.  The pages similarly bring to life the daily trading, in the markets and shops frequented by Georgian Bristolians. Enlivening Bristol through a descriptive narrative, that flows with ease.

The book really does help to enlighten readers about the history of the people of Bristol; and it places the working-classes at centre stage for much of the vibrant events.  It is a pity that the authors are engaged in excluding us from reading about these events, and issues.  This is a very good book, I thoroughly enjoyed it. So rather than moan about being priced out of our history, the BRHG need to do what we do best.  Take our history to the people.  So, I advise you not to buy this book.  You will only be encouraging them.  We will reproduce much of this book, updated and re-written, but not plagiarised obviously.  Work has already been undertaken on food riots, press gangs and the 1831 riots, so we are ahead of the game. Then release them as pamphlets, at the same price as the others.  Thereby, ensuring that nobody is priced out of reading and enjoying our history.   Pretty nifty, for £2.50.

In solidarity

Steve Mills

BRHG December 2017


  1. Liked this review – pity you choose to attack the authors for the high price of the book rather than directing your criticism to the publishers, after all it is them that set the price of the book not the authors. I don’t like the price either but it’s not the fault of the authors.

  2. Dear Steve and all,
    thanks for the positive review of our new book; much appreciated and glad you liked it! I do take issue with the idea that it’s Nick and that are charging £70.00 for it though – that’s price the publishers have slapped on the hardback; Nick and I are very unlikely to get any financial reward from it and in fact had to pay the publishers a hefty subsidy towards the printing costs, as well as pay various sums for repro rights on illustrations. Academic publishing is seldom cheap – but a hardback book of that kind, and of that length – nearly 400 pages – would have been hard to sell to a commercial publisher. What you may not have known is that Boydell have made some pretty generous discounts available for the book and distributed them pretty widely. Most people I know who have a copy have picked it up, not at the r.r.p. of £70, but for the discounted price of £30. Personally I think that’s reasonable. So if you or anyone else at BRHG would like one at a fair price, here’s what to do: find the book in he online store: then use this promotional code at the checkout: BB493 and it should discount the book to £30.
    We’ve also supplied the library and archives with free copies, so at least they’re there to be read by anybody and without cost. I’m hoping there’ll be a paperbook in due course as well.
    All power to your collective elbows then – did you see how we hummed your praises on P4?

  3. Thank you Steve, we did see that our praises were hummed on page 4. Also thank you for understanding my point about cost. I will go to the web site now, and order a copy.

  4. I love this book, and keep.on going back to it. Re-reading chapters and snippets. If you are intetested in Bristol’s rich history, then this publication is a must. Now avaliable for £30 if you use the link above. Solid Steve M

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