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Peterloo

Peterloo. The massacre, derisively dubbed ‘Peterloo’, took place in St Peter's Fields (Manchester) on 16 August 1819. A radical reform meeting of 60,000–100,000 people was violently broken up by the local yeomanry who were ordered by the magistrates to arrest the speaker, Henry Hunt. Eleven people were killed and over 400 wounded. The government promptly congratulated the magistrates and rushed through the Six Acts. There was an immediate national outcry from liberals and reformers of every shade, angrily portrayed in Shelley's The Masque of Anarchy and England in 1819. To middle-class reformers and Whigs, Peterloo was a warning of the aspirations of the unenfranchised. To working-class reformers Peterloo became a symbol. It was condemned at mass meetings throughout the country and was commemorated for many years afterwards. ‘Remember the Bloody Deeds of Peterloo’ proclaimed chartist banners 20 years later.

John F. C. Harrison

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