One of the readings for this past week in LABR 2P93, my global working-class history for the Department of Labour Studies at Brock University, was Eileen Ford’s, “Insurgent Citizenship.” This chapter in World Histories from Below ranges all over the world and covers more than two hundred years in a readable thirty pages. It touches on revolutions and rebellions, strikes and demonstrations, and other forms of resistance to oppression and marginalization. It’s a bit of a wild ride, but there is a sensible argument that ties together what can appear to be disparate events.
Ford argues that the historical nature of citizenship was limited, often exclusive, and always unequal. It was also a progressive ideal and bundle of practical rights that inspired the activism of oppressed and marginalized peoples since the Age of Democratic Revolutions. This is what she means by “insurgent citizenship”; collective activism from below was citizenship in practice.
No more exciting image has ever appeared in a blog post.
A Teaching Assistant in LABR 2P93, the global working-class history course I am teaching for the Department of Labour Studies at Brock University, just told me about a project to produce a graphic novel about the Peterloo Massacre of 1819. It is in development, and will be called “Peterloo: Witnesses to a Massacre.” The Kickstarter page shows some of the art, and provides information about the project – there’s a video too.
From the project’s Kickstarter page, at: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/678551473/peterloo-a-graphic-novel?ref=nav_search&result=project&term=peterloo
Peterloo is a point of focus in LABR 2P93. Students read material about the event and write about it as part of one of the assignments. I make it a focus partly because its timing works in the course for discussion of emerging industrial society and the significance of democracy in places where there were no republican revolutions. I also focus on it because there is so much good material on the event and its place in history. Students will be able to find good scholarly sources on Peterloo for their assignment. There is also good public history about Peterloo, including this British Library piece by Ruth Maher that includes embedded primary sources.
Teaching history from a global perspective calls for decisions about what to focus on, what to minimize, and what to ignore. Slavery in the Atlantic world definitely falls into the “focus on” category. Its history is integral to the history of capitalism and European colonialism, and for understanding the nature of early democracy and social justice movements. It is also integral to understanding contemporary debate about commemoration, for understanding wealth inequality in the Americas, and ideas about race. It’s no wonder that slavery is an important topic in LABR 2P93, the global labour history course I am teaching for Brock University’s Department of Labour Studies.
When lecturing about slavery in the Atlantic world I raise the issue of source material. Much of the primary source material for this history was created by individuals and institutions involved in the slave trade, and in maintaining slaves as an oppressed underclass of workers. There is an abundance of anti-slavery source material too, including the publications and records of the transnational abolitionist movement that emerged in the eighteenth-century. My point of emphasis is that records from both of these perspectives offer insight into the past, and must be read critically.