Peterloo Massacre

James Chandler, “On Peterloo, 16 August 1819″

James Chandler, “On Peterloo, 16 August 1819″

“Peterloo” is the nickname that came to be given to the events of 16 August 1819, when a demonstration on St. Peter’s Field in Manchester in behalf of Parliamentary Reform was broken up by armed force, leaving about a dozen demonstrators dead and many others wounded by hoof and saber. Its claim to distinction in modern social and political history is that, with estimates of the crowd running to 60,000 people, it was probably at the time the largest mass peaceful demonstration ever assembled. Non-violent protest has become a fact of political life over the nearly two centuries since Peterloo. We now associate these kinds of events with names like Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. but the Reform Movement that took shape in Britain in the period after the defeat of Napoleon’s forces at Waterloo had evolved what was then a new set of tactics.