Does the Peterloo massacre still resonate in Britain today?

Does the Peterloo massacre still resonate in Britain today?

The Peterloo massacre happened 200 years
ago in Manchester and was one of the bloodiest political
clashes in modern British history. People lost their lives peacefully
demanding the right to vote for the working classes. But other reasons that drove them to gather
and to call for change are still relevant today. I’ve never ever seen as many people
on the streets begging. Never, even when I was a kid. 200 years ago, up to 60,000 people from
all of the mill towns surrounding Manchester marched into the centre. One of the largest contingents came from Middleton, a town six miles north of Manchester. They gathered at this very spot,
it’s called Barrowfields and the crowd was led by a poet and radical
working-class reformer called Sam Bamford. ‘Because what we want it’s not theirs to give!’ We’ve decided to retrace the steps of
Samuel Bamford and the Middleton contingent and ask whether the issues that drove so many Mancunians to risk their lives back in 1819 are still relevant today. Samuel Bamford worked as a cloth weaver
at a time when many of these jobs were being replaced by mechanised looms. People feared for their livelihoods
and standards of living. It’s not hard to see modern parallels
with the rise of robotics and automation and wage stagnation leading to a rise in hunger. 200 years ago, a hunger crisis was made
worse by the Corn Laws which put heavy tariffs on imported foreign grain that caused
the price of bread to rise. A lot of things is expensive. You’re going,
you know, everything, you go in shops now it’s like double the price,
everything’s doubled. You know, £1.30-odd for a loaf of bread,
you know things like that and tea bags are like £1,50. You get two of them. Thank you. I was using the same teabag twice. Cornflakes, a little bit [of milk] and then the water. That’s how things were, tight it was. Did you use to work? Yeah. What did you do? I used to strip asbestos. I thought you were going to say
you were a stripper. Yeah, a lot of people say that. I’m a stripper. Asbestos, yeah, I done it for about 20 years. … and then on to Manchester and liberty! So, we have driven from Middleton to Harpurhey which remains are very kind of
working-class the district of north Manchester. Samuel Bamford and his protesters
would have marched through here. So we are going to stop and talk to a few people
about Peterloo and see what they think about the main issues that affected the protesters then and whether they still feel relevant today. Well, what’s going on now,
we’ve got more poverty, we’ve got more children going hungry, apparently according to the papers … I don’t know what it was like 200 hundred years ago. I didn’t think you were a witness to the massacre! But since I was a child,
I don’t think it’s for the better. I don’t think life is changing for the better. What them people must have been going through,
when Peterloo was on, they really will have been hungry,
they really will have been starving, I don’t think anybody in England today has to starve.
I don’t know why the food banks are so busy … I could be completely wrong but I work on
the market, I see the price of food and it sounds really cheap, I mean,
I do buy, it feels really cheap. Benefits is a life choice
for people I know, it’s a life choice. Don’t you think it’s still kind of …
it’s not exactly glamorous life though, is it? I don’t think it’s glamorous and I don’t think they care. They’re capable of a lot, lot more than they’ll ever achieve because they’ll never be pushed. That’s me, but I get it, I always voted Labour, automatically, just like my parents did,
always voted Labour. Couldn’t bare Maggie Tatcher,
I thought she was cruel … And the older I’ve got, I changed. I don’t really know. Right, why not? I don’t want to vote. I can’t, I just can’t get my head round them. I don’t like liars, put it that way. And, do you buy a newspaper? No, I pinch it from Asda. Yeah, I get the Evening News. And you believe what you read? Not all the time. Papers do not print the truth. Like in America, they praise you, don’t they? They lift you up. Here, they push you down. That’s where they are, the media. He’s filming you! You’re on telly! Distrust of the media has
become rife in the modern age. And I want you all to know that
we are fighting the fake news. It’s fake, phoney, fake. But actual fake news was rampant after
the Peterloo massacre. The authorities tried their best
to spin the events to make it seem like a violent riot had been heroically suppressed. They tried to claim that many of the
deaths were purely accidental. The protesters fought back with pamphlets
and documents of their own. One journalist present at the massacre by
the name of John Edward Taylor even set up his own newspaper
to give reformists a stronger voice. That paper was to become The Guardian. So after they’d had a pint in Harpurhey, the protesters marched through Collyhurst which is now a district largely
comprised of social housing and then they marched through to the city centre. So, there was a point last year when there
were more cranes on the horizon in Manchester than in any other European city. It’s becoming a city of skyscrapers and great riches and there’s luxury apartments
going up all around the city up for sale, often to foreign investors. Living this aspirational, modern,
metropolitan life, completely out of the price range
of your average Mancunian. It’s definitely becoming a city
of haves and have-nots. Protesters would have marched down these
streets from all directions in their Sunday best. Some walking almost 30
miles to congregate in St Peter’s Fields now St Peter’s Square. Today, the area remains a focus for protests, with the recent schools’ climate strike
taking place here. I don’t know why but I feel proud of myself that I am carrying on the torch with me as well, and carrying down the generation
of the strike in Manchester. Because we’ve done Peterloo,
we’ve done the strike for women’s rights, we’ve done a racism strike … They are all strikes of Manchester
and we are making history. And some people say,
well what difference does it make? What difference do protests make? Not everyone stops and listens
in St Peter’s Square but if you are here and you’re present,
then you’re less ignorable. Where are you from? Hull. I’m a trade unionist. I’m just visiting, we bought the video
so we’re going to be watching that … Are these your kids? These are my lads, yeah. So you’re going to indoctrinate them, are you?
With the radical history … I think they are already there anyway. And since you are an union rep, another big theme of Peterloo was mass unemployment, after the Napoleonic wars,
and very insecure work as well … You know, the mills just taking on hands
when they wanted people and then maybe there was a trade slump and then all of a sudden people were out
the job and then, you know, we see some parallels with that
today with zero-hours contracts … When you see the official figures,
you look and: ‘Oh, they don’t look so bad.’ The employment figures, you mean? When you actually look up, well he’s classed
as employed and he does five hours a week. You know, that’s not right, is it? It’s coming around again. So although the Manchester of 2019 would
be unrecognisable to the 60,000 people who marched on this spot 200 hundred
years ago, what they would recognise is that many of the issues which prompted
them to risk their lives and take to the streets, are still so visible today.

28 thoughts on “Does the Peterloo massacre still resonate in Britain today?

  1. UK needs to fight back against the BS going on! High Court enforcers BBC TV tax No go areas! Must get out of the EU and take back your country!

  2. These days unlike at Peterloo you won't be killed for seeking democracy, instead you'll just be made to vote again and again until the 'correct' decision has been made…

  3. And now the Guardian spends the vast majority of its time attacking a Labour leader who actually stands up for ordinary people.

  4. Interesting video, thanks Helen. I'm shamefully unaware of much of what happened in Peterloo. I'll make a point of watching the film now.

  5. Percy Shelley wrote Masque of Anarchy after news of the massacre reached him in Italy. He wrote several revolutionary poems in 1819. Masque of Anarchy ends:

    `Rise like Lions after slumber

    In unvanquishable number–

    Shake your chains to earth like dew
    Which in sleep had fallen on you–

    Ye are many — they are few.'

  6. The politicians and elites are worried that the people will work out that they are all in the same position and will lobby to change it . They will do anything to ensure that the people send time fighting among themselves therefore they will not work out who the real oppressors are.

  7. The Peterloo massacre: what was it and what did it mean? ►

  8. If that’s how you started guardian, then my, how far you’ve fallen. Do you stand up for the people? Or the establishment you so benefit from…

  9. Yes. It allows middle class gobs**tes to pretend like they have some kinda connection to the grinding poverty of the past, so they too can be victims of oppression. Well, hey – My grandfather and his father fought in two world wars. But at no point would I ever dare to claim their hardships as my own.

  10. It reminds me of the "gilets jaunes" in France. Many "gilets jaunes" have lost an arm or an eye because of police violence, but our government doesn't care. Journalists and photographers were also targeted by the police. It looks like the situation of "Tiananmen" 30 years ago …

  11. Much of Marx & Engels gruesome observations on working conditions come directly from Manchester, almost two centuries ago

  12. These people are mistaken – we have been in the EU for 46 years and our streets are paved with gold. Mass immigration has increased labour supply and this means wages go up, not down.

  13. The over importantance and reliance on government needs to change . Change is possible . We have come this far as a civilization we can go much further.

  14. 200 years on and the Ruling Elite – for which the Guardian is the newspaper of choice – still hold ordinary people in contempt and refuse to allow democracy. Hence the attempts to overturn the biggest democratic mandate in UK history.

  15. Britain needs to overthrow the monarchy, declare a constitutional republic. That’s the only way you’ll get any semblance of equality

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