By the early nineteenth century, Manchester was England’s second largest city and world’s first industrial city. But it was run like a mediaeval market town with no real democracy and brutal poverty for the working class.
A mass movement developed among working-class and middle-class people, for universal manhood suffrage, annual parliaments and ‘the ballot’ i.e. a secret vote. The working-class part of this movement saw winning democratic rights as part of the struggle for better living and working conditions.
The huge demonstration on St Peter’s Fields on the 16 August 1819 was the high point of the working-class part of this movement. Estimates of the turnout vary up to 150,000 but academia is agreed that there were over 60,000 people. In a population of 400,000, there were up to half the adults on the march.
Women and Irish migrant workers were prominent on the demonstration as all sections of the working class poured out on protest in the world’s first mass working-class movement. The ruling class used army regiments and volunteer soldiers to smash the demonstration, killing 15 and wounding hundreds.
This new pamphlet, produced by the Socialist Party north-west region, brings together four new articles about “The Massacre,” “Revolution, War and Struggle,” “The run-up to Peterloo,” and “After Peterloo,” together with previously published material on the Pentrich Uprising and the Great French Revolution.