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Chartists

Jason M. Kelly


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Chartism was a massive, working-class political movement that became a prominent feature of British politics between 1837 and 1848. The name Chartist was a derivation from their petitioning activities, which culminated in the presentation of three People's Charters to parliament in 1838, 1842, and 1848. While unsuccessful in achieving their immediate goals, the group became a potent symbol of early working-class political agitation, for radicals and conservatives alike. To understand the significance of Chartism to early Victorian politics, it is necessary to understand the political and social milieu from which the coalition emerged. The late 1820s and early 1830s were heady years for British reformers. The Whig party, with the aid of Daniel O'Connell's massive support in Ireland, had outmaneuvered the Tories, forcing them to submit to the repeal of the Test and Corporation Acts in 1828 and to Catholic emancipation in 1829. The death of George IV brought with it hope that the new regime would bring the reform of “old corruption” – the end to sinecures, preferments, rotten boroughs, and more. A poor harvest in 1829 sparked higher bread prices and the increased politicization of the working classes. In the south and east of the country, agricultural laborers expressed their anger at high prices and low wages in the so-called Swing Riots . In the wake of the repeal of the Combination ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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