James Parkinson was a multi-talented surgeon, palaeontologist and political writer whose most famous legacy is perhaps the disease of the human nervous system which still carries his name. It was in political commentary, however, where Parkinson found both repute and notoriety during his lifetime. In the wake of the French Revolution Parkinson published a number of works calling for political change and was a strong advocate of parliamentary reform and universal suffrage. As a member of several radical organisations Parkinson was deeply mistrusted by the government and at one point was implicated in a plot to assassinate King George III, though no formal charges were ever brought against him.
Shown here is Revolution Without Bloodshed, first published by Parkinson in 1794, in which he advocates a sequence of temperate reform measures as an alternative to violent political revolution. By offering proper representation to the people in parliament Parkinson argued that a whole sequence of economic and social benefits would ensue, including an end to unemployment, a fairer system of taxation, a reform of the criminal justice system and a redistribution of wealth. Parkinson’s sentiments were far ahead of their time when the pamphlet was first published and such radical views were seen as seditious in some political quarters.
- Article by:
- Ruth Mather
- Power and politics
Ruth Mather considers how Britain's intellectual, political and creative circles responded to the French Revolution.