Personally, I'm always interested in following the women, and Vallance does an entirely decent job with his female actors. He clearly admires the leveller Katherine Chidley, particularly for her "doughty riposte" to the Presbyterian polemicist Thomas Edwards (later author of Gangraena). He'd claimed that religious toleration could lead to religious and political anarchy and social disorder. She responded that an unbelieving husband, though he might command her body, could have no authority over his wife's conscience.
He's less sympathetic (okay, I must admit most historians are, although I've got a soft spot for her) about the "unstable female mystic" Lady Eleanor Davies, who "published almost seventy largely unreadable prophetic tracts," as well as providing work to the Digger Winstanley and followers after they were driven off the common land they'd tried to farm. Yet Vallance notes that Winstanley was far from blameless in thier exchanges, by modern standards, maintaining highly masculinist predjudices about her robust behaviour.
On Mary Wollstonecraft, Vallance claims that she's been unfairly conscipted by modern feminists to the suffragist cause. Instead, he says, she was mostly concerned with proper education for middleclass women to make them suited to be wives, and mothers, as well as capable of exercising more public virtues. But he notes that she was particularly lauded by women of her time: the poet Anna Seward called Wollstonescraft's Vindication of the Rights of Women a "wonderful book," while a woman reader from Glasgow complained that the text was in such demand it was difficult to get a look at it.
Moving on a century, to the massacre of Peterloo, Vallance highlights the prominent ceremonial, if silent, role of women at the St Peter's Field meeting. And once the official attack on the peaceful protest, he finds that women were particularly targeted. "Mary Fildes [president of the Manchester Female Reform Society] was dragged down from the hustings, her white dress catching on a nail. As she tried to free herself, she was slashed across the body with a sabre....a heavily pregnant woman, Mrs Elizabeth Gaunt... was badly beaten and later thrown into the New Bailey Prison, where she was kept in solitary confinement and physically abused."
Moving on to the suffragettes, Vallance provides a decent study, with a strong hint of sociology, noting that the large numbers of respectable middle class women left without outlet for thir intellectual energies in Victorian times.
In his history, Vallance finishes with the East End Battle of Cable Street, against Moseley's Blackshirts, but in an epilogue he brings us into the 21st century, with his thoughts on contemporary politics and the place of radicalism, and particularly civil liberties, within it. He notes how the left-winger singer songwriter Billy Bragg and the far right British National Party have both claimed to be inheritors of the same "radical tradition", which "is a reminder of the tradition's malleability."