Peterloo

Happy New Year

Edmund Dawson, Peterloo victim. Commemorative light in Manchester Town Hall annexe

Firstly, apologies for the gap in blogs; life got in the way.  And life consisted of?   Christmas and New Year of course.  Plus proof reading and indexing my latest book due for publication in May this year interspersed with a lengthy and ongoing grapple with an article about the Peterloo Massacre due for an August publication, the bicentenary of that appalling atrocity.

The Peterloo Massacre took place in the centre of Manchester (not then a city) on the 16 August 1818.  What started out as an open air meeting ended with the slaughter of a number of men, women and children. To this day, nobody actually knows how many. Why not?  It has been a contentious issue for 200 years….   The then establishment justified their actions, initially citing a death toll of 5, claiming these people had attended an illegal meeting.   To use a modern expression; it was collateral damage…

Recently checking out an armful of books in Manchester Central Library, I was approached by a distinguished gentleman who, commenting on my choice of literature, introduced himself as a history professor at Manchester University. As he left, he said, ‘You need to question why Peterloo was suppressed for over forty years.’

It’s been suppressed for longer than that.   Manchester born and bred Mike Leigh, director of the recent film Peterloo, had never heard of it when he was growing up!   However, various agencies have been pushing for its recognition as amongst the worst infringements of human rights in England  A commemorative sculpture is being erected near the site of the massacre and the annex at Manchester Town Hall has red lights built into the floor recognising the names of those known to have been killed.

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