Immobilizing the Catholic Foe: A 'Popery' of Protestation in London 1780
The Gordon Riots of 1778 were one of the most violent public demonstrations of the century in London, and represent the culmination of an explosive religious and political climate in late 18th century England. This paper examines the nature and extent of the riots as well as details of specific rioters to shed light on the fact that even among London’s lower orders there existed a deep and complex set of beliefs about how British society should be structured. While on the surface the riots may appear to be simply yet another expression of xenophobia, they were connected to a growing nationalism tied to religion, global economics, and a strained domestic situation. I argue that the methodical, discriminate nature of the riots reflects the deeply held belief in the rightful supremacy of Protestantism as essential to the identity and security of Britain and demonstrates that anti-Catholicism could unify different social classes under a single cause.