Though not its main focus, Goldstone's Revolution and Rebellion in the Early Modern World (1991) threw considerable new light on 19th century Europe's revolutions and near-revolutions. While Goldstone stresses the role of an expanding and industrializing economy in absorbing 19th century England's demographic shocks, we accept this analysis but argue alongside it for similar attention to the vector of emigration, settler-colonialism, and imperial state expansion into which at least some of the exhaust fumes of the population explosion were vented. Furthermore, it is important to note the crucial role of a highly interventionist state and 'big' government in the background to these dynamics—a far cry from the light-touch, laissez-faire qualities with which the 19th century British state is often associated.
To make our case, this article takes advantage of secondary literature and raw data not available prior to the publication of Goldstone's book. Of crucial importance here is our unique dataset of fatality-inducing political violence events in Britain and Ireland from 1785 to 1900. This is the first research paper to utilise this dataset. We draw upon this in the following section, which seeks to establish what the real level of political instability was in 19th century Britain—thus cross-referencing Goldstone's account with more recent data—before moving on in the following section to a more detailed overview of the socio-economic conditions underlying events at the political level. This is followed by our account of the emigration-settler-colonialism-imperial state expansion vector and the interventionist state policy behind it, which we argue was crucial to making 19th century Britain relatively 'revolution-proof'—alongside the expanding economic opportunities rightly highlighted by Goldstone. Lastly come our brief concluding remarks, which lay out the implications, as we see them, of this article's findings for research on revolutions, political violence and instability, demographic-structural theory, state-building, migration, and imperialism-colonialism.