Americans are not the only people to have demanded better representation from the UK – you might be surprised to learn that British people had to demand it, too.
Today, in 1819 a crowd of 60,000 protesters gathered at St. Peter’s Field, Manchester, to demand better parliamentary representation. At that time, just 11% of adult men, no women, decided the fate of the entire nation. The price of bread was artificially kept high due to laws called the Corn Laws, and electoral reform was seen as the first step along the road to counter the high unemployment which followed the Napoleonic Wars.
The state’s response? A full, sabres-drawn, cavalry-charge by the hussars. As you might expect for the period, there are no firm numbers, although most estimates put the number of injured at around 400 – some are as high as 600 – with the number of deaths at around 15.
Today is the 201st anniversary of the Peterloo Massacre.
There is no such place as Peterloo – the name was coined by a local newspaper immediately after the incident as a direct reference to the Battle of Waterloo, which had taken place just four years earlier.
And, our parliament’s more considered response? To ban demonstrations.