Manchester Historian

Student newspaper for the University of Manchester's History Department

Wednesday 22nd November 2017 | Manchester, UK

The Peterloo Massacre

OVERVIEW:
The Peterloo Massacre was the escalation of public friction following the Napoleaonic Wars.

The massacre was given the name ‘Peterloo’ in an ironic comparison to the Battle of Waterloo, intended to mock the soldiers who attacked
unarmed civilians.

It occurred during a period of immense political tension and mass protests, where fewer than 2% of the population had the vote.

THE EVENT:
On 16th August 1819 anywhere from 60,000 to 80,000 protestors congregated to hear famed orator Henry Hunt speak in St. Peter’s Field. Hunt advocated parliamentary reform; a desire shared by the urban poor.

By the afternoon confusion and conflict between the protestors and the cavalrymen led to a charge on the people. The protestors who were, in Henry Hunt’s words, “armed with no other weapon but that of a self-approving conscience” suffered 11 deaths, and upwards of 400 injured participants in the process.

LEGACY:
Historians acknowledge that Peterloo was hugely influential in ordinary people winning the right the vote, it highlighted the desire of the ordinary man to be active in politics, led to the rise of the Chartist Movement, and also resulted in the establishment of the Manchester Guardian newspaper.

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