Cartoon depicting the Peterloo Massacre

Contributed by Working Class Movement Library

Cartoon depicting the Peterloo Massacre

On 16 August 1819 a large peaceful crowd gathered in the centre of Manchester to demand political rights and liberties for the people. The meeting had scarcely begun before the town authorities - fearful of an uprising - ordered the arrest of the main speaker Henry Hunt and sent in militia to clear the crowd.
In the crush and chaos at least 18 people were killed, whilst over 600 were wounded. This massacre caused a national outcry and was dubbed "Peterloo" by the radical press, in ironic counterpoint to the Battle of Waterloo which had taken place four years earlier.
George Cruikshank drew this savage cartoon at the time. The horror felt across the country at the news of peaceable protestors being killed and injured is summed up by Cruikshank's depiction of the cavalrymen as wielding meat cleavers rather than the swords they actually employed.

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