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15May2016

GENTLEMANLY CHARTISTS

The Chartists are one of three cases I consider in a chapter of my research project on Other People’s Struggles. The other two are the late 18th and early 19th century anti-slavery movement and late 19th century movements for poverty relief, both of the conjoint ‘neighbouring’ and ‘self-help’ kind, and the disjoint charitable kind.

The mid 19th century Chartists are an intervening case both chronologically and conceptually. They have variously been seen as a democratic people’s movement, and as a working-class one, but their leaders – men like Feargus O’Connor, whose leadership is celebrated in the Chartist song The Lion of Freedom (1841) above – were not workers or disenfranchised.  He and other gentlemanly chartists are interesting example of how ‘outsiders’ participate in social movements which seek primarily to benefit others.

IMAGE CREDIT: THOMAS COOPER, THE LION OF FREEDOM, ORIGINALLY PRINTED IN THE NORTHERN STAR AND LEEDS GENERAL ADVERTISER, 11 SEP 1841, AND INCLUDED IN PETER SCHECKNER (ED.), AN ANTHOLOGY OF CHARTIST POETRY: POETRY OF THE BRITISH WORKING CLASS, 1830s to 1850s (1989), 143-4.