Join Royal Museums Greenwich for a panel discussion about the Greenwich Outrage, followed by a screening of Alfred Hitchcock's Sabotage, which was loo


Join Royal Museums Greenwich for a screening of Alfred Hitchcock's Sabotage (1936), a film loosely inspired by the event known as the Greenwich Outrage. Before this, a panel of academics, writers and broadcasters will set the scene, sketching the quirky realm of radical politics in late-Victorian London and discussing the influence of this peculiar incident on some of the best-known works of twentieth-century culture.

On the afternoon of 15th February 1894, a French anarchist named Martial Bourdin was killed on the slope beneath the Royal Observatory in Greenwich Park when the bomb he was carrying detonated accidentally. His intentions have always been unclear, but at the time it was generally assumed that his aim was to blow up the scientific institution, site of the Prime Meridian, in the name of revolutionary anarchism.

"It would be really telling if one could throw a bomb into pure mathematics," joked Joseph Conrad in The Secret Agent, his fictional account of the event – "an act of destructive ferocity so absurd as to be incomprehensible, inexplicable, almost unthinkable; in fact, mad." 

The incident became known as the 'Greenwich Outrage’, and it was followed by a furore. As the first act of international terrorism on British soil, it was the subject of intrigue for a Victorian popular press clamouring to connect lurid revolutionary violence on the continent with the more mundane realities of Britain’s domestic life.

Some even believed that Bourdin had been duped into killing himself by a double-agent working for the police. This is the fascinating proposition that Conrad turned into one of the greatest works of modern literature. But the cultural reverberations were huge: the Outrage inspired responses from artists such as Oscar Wilde and T.S. Eliot to Alfred Hitchcock and Tom McCarthy.

About the film: Sabotage (1936) 
A Scotland Yard undercover detective is on the trail of a saboteur who is part of a plot to set off a bomb in London. But when the detective's cover is blown, the plot begins to unravel. 
Rating: PG

Meet the panel: Claire Armitstead
Claire Armitstead is Associate Editor, Culture, at the Guardian and Observer, where she writes across the arts. She founded and chaired the Guardian first book prize and presented the Guardian Books podcast for 10 years.

* Suitable for ages 16+

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Greenwich Outrage 130th Anniversary Event


Royal Observatory, Blackheath Avenue, Greenwich, London, SE10 8XJ
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