Last updated: 19 May 2009
Historian John Davies looks at the unrest at the beginning of the Labour movement in Wales.
By the beginning of the 20th century, with only 10% of its population directly reliant upon agriculture, Wales was manifestly an industrial country. With a smaller middle class than its equally industrialised neighbours England and Scotland, Wales could convincingly be described as the world's first proletarian nation.
By this time Wales had a long tradition of working-class protest. There was serious unrest in Tredegar in 1816 and, in the 1820s, the Scotch Cattle, a group seeking to create working-class unity through terror, were active in Monmouthshire.
Much of the protest was aimed at the untrammelled power of the ironmasters who, in addition to being employers were also landlords, owners of truck shops and controllers of local government as it existed. In some cases they were also members of the local magistrates' bench.
In 1831 Merthyr experienced the most serious uprising to occur in 19th century Britain. The uprising was in part the result of the instability created by agitation for parliamentary reform.
However, its basic causes can be attributed to the highly distinctive character of the Welsh experience of industrialization; it culminates in the killing of at least 20 people outside Merthyr's Castle Hotel and the hanging of Richard Lewis (Dic Penderyn).
The Chartist uprising of 1839 proved equally bloody. The Chartists, advocates of universal male suffrage, organised a march on Newport which was partly a demonstration and partly an attempt at revolution.
It resulted in at least a score of deaths around the town's Westgate Hotel, and the deportation of its leaders - John Frost, the one-time mayor of Newport - among them.
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