The British Democrats

The British Democrats were British reformers and revolutionaries of the late eighteenth century, inspired by, and sometimes directly involved with, the American and French revolutions. They are also referred to as the British Jacobins, though this was a name they themselves disputed: both because the name was a pretext for repression, and because they included as many distinct currents as the French radicals. Although many of the ideas of the British Democrats were shared with the enlightenment thinkers of France and America, they coalesced as a group around a particularly British set of demands, centered on parliamentary reform, frequent elections, and universal male suffrage. With time and increasing repression the more radical elements came to the fore, leading the 1797 rebellion in Ireland and a brief and abortive rising in Scotland. Their defeat combined with the loss or isolation of most of the prominent figures meant that few written documents from the last stages of the — now underground — movement have survived.

This MIA archive includes two main sets of documents: documents produced by organized groups listed in order of the main events in the decade after the French revolution, and documents produced by individuals (so far only Thomas Spence) involved with the movement.