This website works best using harmless anonymous cookies. Allow Don't allow More info

You have chosen not to allow cookies

Disabling cookies may give you a reduced experience of this website. Are you sure you want to disallow them? [Yes] [No]

This website will not use any non-essential cookies. However some pages include embedded content provided by 3rd party websites. This content may use cookies which we cannot control. We suggest you visit the websites for these providers to disable their cookies.

You Tube, Flickr, Vimeo, AmMap, Google, ShareThis, SurveyMonkey, Facebook

A unique collection capturing the stories and struggles of ordinary people's efforts to improve their world
We urgently need your support


Chartist march 1839The Chartist Movement to reform Parliament grew out of the demands of the working class in industrial towns for better living and working conditions, and was at its height between 1838 and 1848.

In 1836 the London Working Men’s Association was founded and in 1837 drew up a Charter of Political Demands.  The Charter was formally launched in May 1838 and work began gathering signatures for a national mass petition to parliament. The Northern Star newspaper played a key role and in the autumn there were huge rallies in Manchester and elsewhere. The first Chartist convention met in February 1839 and the petition was presented in May, but rejected. Mass meetings were dispersed by police and troops, and many leading chartists arrested.

A second petition gathered over 3 million signatures. Presented to Parliament in May 1842, it was rejected. In late summer a general strike in support of the Charter swept across Lancashire, and spread to other parts of the country. The government poured in troops and strikers were eventually forced back to work. In the aftermath the government arrested hundreds and 80 were sentenced to transportation.

Chartism declined with the period of economic expansion between 1842 to1846, but the slump in 1847 saw its revival.  In the wake of the French revolution in February 1848, a third petition was presented to Parliament on 10 April after a large meeting on Kennington Common. The government flooded London with soldiers and volunteer constables and there were scores of arrests, with the best leaders imprisoned. Chartism continued for another decade, but was a spent force.

In their book Manchester and Salford Chartists the Library's founders the Frows described Chartism as 'the adolescence of the labour movement'.   Its legacy was the growth of trade unions, co-operatives and socialist working class politics.

Explore 200 years of working class movement activism

Timeline slider
  • 1791

    Thomas Paine publishes 'Rights of man'

  • 1798

    Irish Rebellion

  • 1819


  • 1834


  • 1844

    Rochdale Pioneers

  • 1848

    Chartist banner, 'More pigs and less parsons'Kennington Common Chartist meeting

  • 1867

    'Manchester Martyrs' executed

  • 1868

    First meeting of TUC

  • 1871

    Fall of the Paris Commune

  • 1893

    Foundation of the Independent Labour Party

  • 1906

    Creation of the Labour Party

  • 1908

    Formation of the Plebs League

  • 1913

    Cat and Mouse Bill cartoon : Cartoon from Votes for Women, 1913
    Cat and Mouse Act

  • 1924

    Ramsey MacDonald
    First Labour government

  • 1926

    Arthur Cook_1926General Strike

  • 1931

    Red Megaphones first performance

  • 1932

    Kinder Scout mass trespass

  • 1936

    Map of SpainSpanish Civil War

  • 1944

    Education Act

  • 1945

    National Coal Board notice : National Coal Board noticeNationalisation of the coal industry

  • 1948

    Birth of the NHS

  • 1956

    Tanks on Hungarian street, 1956Hungarian uprising

  • 1958

    CND symbolAldermaston marches and birth of CND

  • 1968

    Prague Spring

  • 1971

    Upper Clyde Shipbuilders : Poster depicting demonstration in support of the ship workers

    Upper Clyde Shipbuilders

  • 1976

    Grunwick dispute

  • 1982

    Falklands War : Cover image from pamphlet 'Resist the Falkland madness: a pacifist response'

    Falklands War

  • 1984

    Miners' strike

  • 1990

    Nelson Mandela's  release from prison

  • 1998

      Good Friday agreement

  • 1999

    Minimum wageIntroduction of national minimum wage

  • 2001

    Stop the War logo
    Stop the War campaign

We need your support

To maintain the momentum of the huge increases in usage of the Library over the last few years, we need to raise an extra £86,000 each year.

Can you help? Click here for news of our 'Future Fund' fundraising appeal.

First National Festival of LGBT History

The Library's contribution to this Festival, a talk 'Unity is Strength – Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners and their lasting links of comradeship with mining communities’, takes place on Saturday 14 February at 2pm.

To find out more click here.

Object of the Month

Our Objects of the Month are a range of pamphlets from the 1930s and 1940s in our collection, to mark Holocaust Memorial Day on 27 January 2015.  Find out more here.