This project seeks to disinter a wide range of poetry and song in Scotland, responding to moments of agitation for reform and extension of the franchise. It examines the neglected impact that local verse culture had on Scottish politics, including songs performed in the streets, in public houses, meetings, marches, at dinners and other events.
Recovering this performance culture and assessing how song tunes conveyed political ideology is integral to this project, but it is equally engaged with how written verse circulated in the emerging print cultures of this period (for example broadsides, songsheets, newspaper columns and locally-produced anthologies). It interrogates the relationship between ‘song’ and ‘poetry’ and investigates the formal and generic allegiances of political verse, exploring its relationship to regional, national, party and international identities, and the intersections of class, gender, religious and political identity that it fostered.
To enable in-depth research into key moments, the project focuses on four periods associated with the extension of the franchise: 1830-2, 1866-8, 1884-6 and 1913-18. It will thus investigate the shifting role of verse culture in the reform agitation of the 1820s/30s; the emergence of a reforming Liberal agenda leading up to franchise extension in 1867; the evolution of the Labour movement in the 1880s and the extension of the franchise in 1884; and the campaign for the female suffrage up until 1918. It will deploy material from newspapers, periodicals and other print and manuscript materials in a range of Scottish archives.