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Unusual SuspectsPitt's Reign of Alarm and the Lost Generation of the 1790s$
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Kenneth R. Johnston

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199657803

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199657803.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 23 April 2021

‘Dr Phlogiston’

‘Dr Phlogiston’

Joseph Priestley (1733–1804)

(p.46) (p.47) 3 ‘Dr Phlogiston’
Unusual Suspects

Kenneth R. Johnston

Oxford University Press

The 1791 riots in Birmingham destroyed the home and laboratory of Joseph Priestley, isolator of oxygen and several other elemental gases. Priestley was the leading British scientist of his day, a national figure among English Dissenters (or Independents), and a political liberal who supported the rights of the American colonists and led the fight against the 17th-century Test and Corporation Acts that limited the religious, political, and educational rights of non-Anglicans. Careful examination of several scholarly studies of the 1791 riots reveals high degrees of collusion between some Birmingham magistrates and the riotous mob which burned and looted the homes of nearly three dozen prosperous Dissenting merchants, bankers, and clergymen over the course of an entire weekend before army troops arrived. Priestley, the intended victim of this arson-terrorism, was lucky to escape with his life. Unable to work unimpeded in England, he and his family migrated to Pennsylvania in 1794.

Keywords:   Joseph Priestley. Birmingham riots. Birmingham Dissenters. Arson. Assassination. Terrorism. Lunar Society. Corruption. Hegemonic discipline

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