The Covent Garden Old Price Riots: Protest and Justice in Late‑Georgian London

When an article or book chapter I have been involved in is published, I usually write a blog post about it (for example, on ‘The Royal Brat: Making Fun of George Augustus Frederick‘). I have three reasons for doing this: one, to mark the fact; two, to make people aware of the work; and three, to summarise what it contains. The latter is particularly important to me. Although where possible I try to make pre- and/or post- print versions of my published work available, I am acutely aware that there is often a cash barrier to my writing and so writing a summary here can be useful to folks without the means to access my work.

Today an article of mine appeared in the Open Library of Humanities (or OLH for short). If you haven’t heard of the journal, it describes itself thus:

The Open Library of Humanities is a peer-reviewed, open-access journal open to submissions from researchers working in any humanities’ discipline in any language. The journal is funded by an international library consortium and has no charges to authors or readers.

This mean two things: first, that my article ‘The Covent Garden Old Price Riots: Protest and Justice in Late‑Georgian London’ is available to everyone with an internet connection absolutely free at this URL; second, that my article both supports and is supported by the open access movement, a community driven activity that is changing the mechanisms by which academics communicate (for more, see my review of Martin Paul Eve’s Open Access and the Humanities: Contexts, Controversies and the Future at

This article had a long gestation. The research it is based on began whilst scratching an itch during the preparation of a different article on the Old Price Riots. At the beginning of 2013 my growing interest in this area coincided with both the OLH campaign for scholars to Pledge to Publish when the journal finally launched (mentioned here; I believe over 150 pledges were made) and a protest history workshop at which I presented some early findings. From there the article dropped off my list of priorities as I started a new job at the British Library, before – slowly and surely – I brought the research towards publication.

OLH have been amazing throughout. They are an open access journal but they are certainly not a venue for vanity publishing. As I note towards to close of the article, the presentation and framing of my research would have been much poorer without the insight, ruthlessness, and encouragement of a number of anonymous peer reviewers and the section editor (thanks Melodee!)

The article itself traces perceptions of the law and agents of the legal system during the 1809 Covent Garden Old Price riots. I’ve find the riots fascinating, not least due to the fact that Londoners – not the poorest, but certainly a fair cross-section – would pay to enter a theatre night after night to protest a series of affronts, as they say them, to their freedoms. Often their efforts would drown out most of the performances on show. In this research I use the newspaper press as lens on the riots not because these records are easy to get at via online databases, but because newspapers are both the most voluminous record of the conflict and a venue in which protest took place when driven – by those agents of the legal system – from the theatre.

This is probably the last I’ll publish on the Old Price Riots.  I’ve got plenty out of them, not in a publish or perish kind of way (not that I believe in such things…), but in terms of genuine pleasure. If you don’t think a bunch of rioting theatre types is for you, take a look at the published exchange between James Thomas and Justice Graham at Bow Street Magistrates, Saturday 2 December 1809 (from here). It made me laugh!

Baker, J.W., (2016). The Covent Garden Old Price Riots: Protest and Justice in Late‑Georgian London. Open Library of Humanities. 2(1), p.e4. DOI:


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