This chapter introduces the rural rising known as ‘Swing’, the pseudonym used to sign off many of the threatening letters sent to farmers and others during the autumn and winter of 1830. Despite the preoccupation of Swing's instant histories with incendiarism, popular conceptions now rest firmly on the idea that the movement was solely concerned with the iniquities of the machine. Swing remains a hugely important historical turning point in the understanding of rural protest. By focusing on the south-eastern counties of Hampshire, Kent, Sussex and Surrey – the area where Swing started – this book attempts to explain the protests in context: locally, culturally, economically, politically and socially.
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