I’m very pleased to announce that I’ve just signed a new book contract with Pen and Sword for their new Social History imprint!
‘Regency Spies: England's Rebels and Revolutionaries Exposed’ will explore the shadowy world of the network of government spies and agents provocateurs which kept watch on Britain’s underprivileged masses during the Napoleonic wars. The upper classes feared a replay of the French Revolution on British soil: the threat of an armed insurrection or a French invasion was taken very seriously. Any hint of sedition was ruthlessly suppressed.
The ‘Great War’ against Napoleon had a devastating effect on the British economy. Taxation reached record levels to pay for the war, and the poorer classes endured great hardship. Hunger fuelled riots for cheaper food and Luddite attacks on mill-owners, factories and machinery.
The spy network had some famous successes, like the discoveries of the Despard plot, the Pentrich Rising and the Cato St conspiracy. Sometimes the government’s efforts descended into high farce, like the ‘Spy Nozy’ affair, in which poets Wordsworth and Coleridge were shadowed by a special agent. But the stakes were incredibly high: agitators risked the horrors of a traitor’s death if found guilty.
The book will tell the stories of the real conspirators against the government, and the tragedies which befell ordinary folk entrapped by agents provocateurs. The provisional launch date for ‘Regency Spies’ is mid-to-late 2015.
Images from the Library of Congress British Cartoons collection:Satire identifying reform with revolution by Cruikshank, 1819. Library of Congress collection.
‘True reform of Parliament: patriots lighting a revolutionarybonfire in new Palace Yard by Gillray, 1809. Sir Francis Burdett is making a speech and waving a bonnet rouge [cap of liberty] shaped like a fool's cap as Horne Tooke lights on fire a pile of acts and charters, as well as a Bible, with a flaming baton labeled "Sedition" while three creatures add to the flames. James Boswell, Samuel Whitbread, Lord Folkestone, and Henry Clifford add documents to the pile as a mob destroys Parliament in the background.