The 'Swing' Riots which occurred during the winter of 1830, characterize the last massive protest of the Old English village prior to the encroachment of a new set of economic principles and farming methods, and hence were aptly termed by the Hammonds, the 'Last Labourers Revolt'. There does not appear to have been a great deal known of the nineteenth century agricultural labourer, except perhaps that he was not particularly well-off; nor does it seem that anyone especially cared. He was simply ignored by the nobility and the squirarchy, and disdained by the urban middle-class. Judged by the lack of availability of sources on the rising, the movement which affected the agricultural areas of some thirty counties created scarcely a ripple on the historical ocean, yet for two months it undermined the morale of the traditional rulers of England.
Together with political agitation, the riots broke out in one of the most troubled years of nineteenth century English history, and, according to Professor Rostow's social tension, ushered in a two year period described as 'a sustained intensity of excitement unknown since 1641. However, 'Swing' was almost exclusively a rural movement, in spite of George Rude's attempt to treat them together. 'Captain Swing' was the name given, by whom it has not been established, to the mythical leader of the labourers in the 1830 Revolt, just as 'General Ludd' had become the leader of machine-breaking in 1811-12. Halevy suggests that perhaps the name 'Swing' was later derived from the swinging stick of the hand flail used in threshing prior to the introduction of the threshing machine, an innovation which created great controversy during the period in question. However, a more likely origin was the pen ef some journalistic talent (see R. Carlile Appendix I) who perhaps decided the movement could do with a little added drama, or felt that the labourers could do with some sense of unity which a figurehead might provide. In any event, 'Captain Swing' was misrepresented as the incendiary in 1830, but more aptly fitted this role for some twenty years thereafter. ........................