Joseph Cowen of Newcastle and Radical Liberalism

Hugman, Joan (1993) Joseph Cowen of Newcastle and Radical Liberalism. Doctoral thesis, University of Northumbria at Newcastle.

PDF (PhD thesis)
334603.pdf - Accepted Version

Download (19MB) | Preview


This thesis emanated from a conviction that major gaps in our knowledge of Liberal history remain, especially in the realm of regional politics. The research aims to challenge the widely held view that Tyneside was a bastion of Liberalism for the greater part of the nineteenth century. Summary electoral statistics are shown to be wholly unreliable as a description of the prevailing political ethos. The dynastic dominance of the Cowen family and, in particular, the salutary influence of Joseph Cowen Jnr. (1829-1900) ensured that Tyneside retained its strong radical tradition.
The work begins by identifying the powerful agrarian and international roots of local politics and hiqhlighting the pivotal role of Thomas Spence. Tyneside was demonstrably in the vanguard of early nineteenth century movements, notably the 1832 Reform Act campaign and Chartism. In 1848, Cowen redirected radical energies into the cause of European nationalism and subsequently regenerated electoral reform through the formation of the Northern Reform Union. Politically ambitious, he sought to to win the confidence and loyalty of the working classes by involving himself in a plethora of 'improving' organisations. He actively encouraged mechanics' institutes to adopt a democratic structure and was responsible for introducing Cooperation into the region in 1859. Under his proprietorship, the Newcastle Chronicle became a powerful medium for the dissemination of radical ideas, thus extending his influence
far beyond the immediate locality.
By 1873, Cowen's charismatic leadership was a reckonable force, uniquely strengthening his bargaining position and making him powerbroker of the Radical/Liberal alliance. The Irish dimension of Tyneside politics, it is argued, was extremely important. Elsewhere, the Irish vote proved to be notoriously unpredictable. His staunch defence of Irish interests and close friendship with prominent Irish nationalists ensured that all the available Irish votes were pledged in his favour. The thesis concludes by appraising Cowen's apparent conversion to an imperialist foreign policy, and considers how far this constituted a compromise of his patriotic radical principles.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Additional Information: Thesis digitised by the British Library e-thesis online service, EThOS.
Subjects: L200 Politics
V300 History by topic
Department: University Services > Graduate School > Doctor of Philosophy
Depositing User: Ellen Cole
Date Deposited: 25 Oct 2019 15:13
Last Modified: 17 Dec 2023 15:11

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item


Downloads per month over past year

View more statistics