British Chartism in the nineteenth century

This video from England says about itself:

3 December 2014

The Chartists are commonly regarded as the first mass working class movement of the 19th century. Their demands for the vote, secret ballots and the end of property qualifications are now standard fare in most democracies but at the time rocked the British establishment to the core, leading many to think that revolution was imminent. We bring together a panel of renowned historians to discuss the origins, achievements and the local significance of the Chartist Movement in the South West.

Dorothy Thompson has devoted much of her academic life to the study of the Chartists and is a world-wide authority on the movement. Owen Ashton is Emeritus Professor of Modern British Social History at Staffordshire University and an expert on Chartism in the West Country. Les James is a community history activist who has written and publicised events commemorating the Newport Chartist Rising.

More info: here.

By Tomasz Pierscionek in Britain:

Working-class movement bringing dignity to the disenfranchised

Monday 28th September 2015

The Dignity of Chartism by Dorothy Thompson (Verso Books, £10.49)

THE 19th-century Chartist movement, which predated the development of trade unions and the establishment of the Labour Party, stands out as an example of organised resistance from below against the capitalist mode of production and its social consequences.

This broad movement, most active in the 1830s and 1840s, is associated with putting forward the 1838 People’s Charter, a series of six demands calling for political reforms considered radical at the time.

The late social historian Dorothy Thompson devoted her life to researching Chartism. Through her years of meticulous research, she was able to provide new insights into and a deeper analysis of a movement, comprising millions of men and women, which created consternation for factory owners and the parliamentary representatives of the upper class.

The Dignity of Chartism is a collection of Thompson’s published essays and book reviews on the subject and also includes her musings on the strengths and flaws of some of Chartism’s key players. A lengthy chapter, co-authored with her historian and peace campaigner husband, EP Thompson, illustrates the rise and fall of Chartism in Halifax, one of the movement’s strongholds.

Thompson’s writings explain the factors leading to the rise of Chartism, its achievements, setbacks, the differences in opinions between its radical and more moderate leaders and, ultimately, its legacy.

Her examination of Chartism’s aims and its leaders illuminates a working-class movement which brought dignity to the disenfranchised. Thompson explains how Chartism provided the inspiration for later activists to develop trade unions and found the Labour Party. Her writings assume a degree of knowledge of the subject and thus a reader without some background knowledge of Chartism may find certain chapters taxing.

But persistence is rewarded. It permits a greater understanding of an extraordinary historical period which followed the transition from feudalism to capitalism and the change from an individual to a socialised mode of production, where the working class cut its teeth in the first of many struggles.

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