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A unique collection capturing the stories and struggles of ordinary people's efforts to improve their world
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Peterloo

Peterloo headscarf detailOn 16 August 1819 armed cavalrymen and soldiers attacked a peaceful crowd in Manchester.

Local radicals had called the meeting as part of a campaign for the political reform of parliament, a campaign given renewed vigour by the distressed economic conditions since the end of the Napoleonic Wars.

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 the Manchester Yeomanry  and regular army.

At least 18 people were killed whilst many hundreds were wounded.  This unprecedented massacre was dubbed Peterloo by the radical press, contrasting this shameful episode with the Allied victory at Waterloo four years earlier.

The Library holds a wealth of material relating to Peterloo - reports of the trial of Henry Hunt and other participants in the events, eye-witness accounts, political cartoons, contemporary pamphlets, a map drawn for one of the official enquiries into what went wrong, a commemorative head-scarf sold to raise money for those injured and the families of those killed, and much more. Click here to arrange a visit to the Working Class Movement Library

Explore 200 years of working class movement activism

Timeline slider
  • 1791

    Thomas Paine publishes 'Rights of man'

  • 1798

    Irish Rebellion

  • 1819

    Peterloo

  • 1834

    Tolpuddle

  • 1844

    Rochdale Pioneers

  • 1848

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

  • 1867

    'Manchester Martyrs' executed

  • 1868

    TUC
    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.

Find out more here

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Object of the Month

Our Object of the Month is a recent donation, a 1935 menu with some famous signatures. Find out more here.