Barnaby Rudge is set around a backdrop of the Gordon Riots, in late eighteenth century England, which saw several days of rioting motivated by anti-Catholic sentiment. They began with a large and orderly protest in London against the Papists Act of 1778, which was intended to reduce official discrimination against British Catholics enacted by the Popery Act 1698. Lord George Gordon, head of the Protestant Association, argued that the law would enable Catholics to join the British Army and become a dangerous threat. On 2 June 1780, Gordon led a march to hand in a petition to the Houses of Parliament but violence broke out, with the looting and burning of Catholic chapels in foreign embassies. The protest spread over subsequent days to widespread rioting, including the destruction of Newgate and Clink prisons and an attempt to storm the Bank of England. To-date it remains the most destructive civil disturbances in the history of London.The government eventually sent in the army, resulting in an estimated 300-700 deaths. The main violence lasted a week, ending on 9 June, 1780. George was charged with high treason but acquitted. In 1787 he was excommunicated by the Archbishop of Canterbury and later converted to Judaism. In 1788 he was imprisoned in Newgate, after being convicted for defamation, where he died five years later from a typhoid fever that swept through the prison