On 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