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‘Shut Up! Sit Down!’: The Politics of Disruption and the 1886 Home Rule Crisis in England *

Lloyd‐Jones, Naomi

‘Shut Up! Sit Down!’: The Politics of Disruption and the 1886 Home Rule Crisis in England * Thumbnail


Dr Naomi Lloyd-Jones
Assistant Professor (Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship)


This article examines the oral and physical disruption of ‘public’ meetings in England in the spring of 1886, when such activity formed part of broader contests over the legitimacy of extra‐parliamentary responses to the Liberal government's Irish Home Rule Bill. Disruption is an important example of the diverse ways in which home rule energised politics outside Westminster and of the heatedness of grassroots responses to it. For those who engaged in it, disruption offered forms of political interaction and participation that, additionally, made claims to representation and opinion. However, disruption was a practice of contestation that was itself the subject of contention and it was decried as transgressing the bounds of appropriate political conduct. Disruption could be seen, in both intent and effect, as a permissive or subversive, inclusive or exclusionary, behaviour. It could therefore legitimise or undermine claims that popular feeling was on the side of or opposed to the policy. The ‘politics of disruption’ both reflected and generated intense debate about the state of politics in an age of ‘mass democracy’ – of which home rule was the first major crisis – and about the sanctity of political rights and liberties. This article argues that our understanding of political disruption is enhanced by examining its practice and reception at historical moments, outside the episodic election cycle, when contemporaries believed that it was critically important that ‘public opinion’ on a political issue be ascertained and voiced, and when the validity of such opinion was disputed.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date May 31, 2024
Online Publication Date Jun 5, 2024
Publication Date Jun 1, 2024
Deposit Date Jun 12, 2024
Publicly Available Date Jun 12, 2024
Journal Parliamentary History
Print ISSN 0264-2824
Publisher Wiley
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 43
Issue 2
Pages 183-206
Keywords public opinion, political meetings, the caucus, 1886, home rule, Liberal Party, politics of disruption, public meetings, political violence, Conservative Party
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