Peterloo Massacre: England 1819

[ 1819 ]

[also, Manchester Massacre]

Early 19th-century England contained a privileged class fearful of revolution after the Napoleonic Wars and lower classes hungry for parliamentary and economic reforms. A clash was inevitable, and it came on August 16, 1819, at Manchester's St. Peter's Field, at a peaceful rally, the last of a series of 1819 gatherings to protest economic depression, high food costs, and government inaction. About 60,000 persons attended; the large number and their concerns frightened the civil authorities, who had assembled the 15th Hussars, the Cheshire Volunteers, and an untrained civic guard to keep order. No disorder developed except that caused by the authorites, who ordered the rally disbanded immediately after speeches began. The speakers were to be arrested, but the amateur guard made a general attack on the crowd. A cavalry charge cleared the field in 10 minutes, but resulted in 11 deaths and more than 400 wounded person. An inquiry cleared the authorities, but public indignation earned the bloody outrage its ironic name, a bitter pun on Waterloo.

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