Monday, 11 May 2020

Sir Francis Burdett, 1770-1844


Sir Francis Burdett was for many years a powerful advocate of parliamentary reform. As MP for Westminster after 1807, he was a strong supporter of Catholic emancipation and advocated a series of radical measures that would later be included in the People’s Charter.

But he was no Chartist. Following the Reform Act of 1832, the fifth baronet drifted away from his earlier convictions, fell out with his notoriously radical constituents, and in 1837 got himself elected for North Wiltshire instead, where he became a staunch Tory.

Wednesday, 22 April 2020

In the Tasmanian footsteps of William Cuffay

William Cuffay
The following blog post was written after a visit to Hobart in March 2020.

Twenty-first century Hobart is a magnet for cruise ships. Tourists have only to step ashore to enjoy the vibrant outdoor market at Salamanca Place, while the historic convict sites and natural wonders of Tasmania attract vast numbers of visitors.

But 170 years ago, when Tasmania was still Van Diemen’s Land, the deep natural harbour that now makes it possible for ocean liners to dock was equally attractive to those operating a rather different type of passenger shipping.

Friday, 7 June 2019

Chartism Day 2019: from electoral strategy to votes for women, via loaded juries and Yorkshire miners

During the first wave of Chartism, Newcastle was home to the radical Northern Liberator newspaper, and would see some of the largest monster meetings of the age.

Some 180 years later, the city played host once again last weekend to Chartism Day – the annual gathering of academic, unaffiliated and local historians whose shared interests ensure Chartism remains a lively and active field of history.

Monday, 3 June 2019

How the People's Charter envisaged a secret ballot taking place

In the absence of a great deal of practical precedent, how did the Chartists envisage a secret ballot working?

The question arose at last weekend’s Chartism Day conference when Dr Tom Scriven put on screen a copy of the People’s Charter, with its illustrations of a proposed ballot box, as part of his talk on Chartism’s electoral strategy.

And it turned out that none of us there appeared to know the answer.

Friday, 10 May 2019

Peterloo and its place in the Chartist memory

Hunt Memorial - from the Northern Star (20 August 1842)
So much is being written about Peterloo in this bicentenary year that I am reluctant to pitch in. But I think it is worth commenting on the ways in which memories of the 1819 massacre were co-opted by the Chartists a generation later, and the lessons that they held for radicals 20 or 30 years on.

Peterloo was, of course, not just within living memory. Despite the massive political upheavals that took place in the intervening years, it remained fresh in the minds of those who had been there and those who had heard about it with a sense of horror, even at second or third hand in radical broadsheets and newspapers.

Down the years, Peterloo veterans and their supporters continued to commemorate both the anniversary of Peterloo – 16 August – and the birthday in November of “Orator” Henry Hunt, whose arrest had served as the pretext for the yeomanry cavalry charge that left as many as 18 dead and 650 badly injured.