2019 marks 200 years since the Peterloo Massacre. It began as a peaceful protest of around 60,000 men, women and children, held in St Peter’s Field in Manchester on 16 August 1819. Protesters were campaigning for reform and democracy, demanding regular elections, universal male suffrage and a secret ballot. Within a climate of governmental fear over Luddism and what they saw as dangerous radicalism, local magistrates authorised troops to make arrests. A panicked yeomanry cavalry charged into the crowd killing approximately 18 people, and injuring over 600 more.

Image illustrating the ballad ‘Peterloo’ from Broadside ballads: a volume of upwards of 600 English broadside ballads (J. Harkness: Preston, c. 1810-1830). John Rylands Library.

Ballads were crucial tools in the reporting and commemoration of Peterloo, cementing its place in working-class and radical history. In this episode, we hear History Workshop’s Kate Gibson talk to ballad experts – Dr Alison Morgan, Brian Peters and Pete Coe – about the radical history of Peterloo and its ballads.

In this episode, we hear from:

Dr Alison Morgan, a senior teaching fellow in the Centre for Teacher Education at the University of Warwick. Her book Ballads and Songs of Peterloo was published by Manchester University Press in 2018. It contains over seventy ballads, producing them together for the first time.

Brian Peters and Pete Coe, renowned folk musicians from the North West, who have been performing music inspired by Peterloo and the radical ballad tradition for decades.  Together with musician Laura Smyth, they are now touring as ‘The Road to Peterloo’, performing freshly-discovered ballads and original tunes in venues across the UK.

Brian Peters, Alison Morgan and Pete Coe, photo credit Kate Gibson

This podcast was recorded by Kate Gibson, introduced by Marybeth Hamilton, and edited by Imogen Greenberg.

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