In July 1840 a convention of twenty-three delegates met at the Griffin Inn, Great Ancoats Street, Manchester. Elected by Chartist bodies from across Britain, their purpose was to put together a plan for reorganising the movement following a year of repression, in which much of their leadership had been imprisoned, transported, or forced into exile. On July 20 the delegates agreed a plan for a permanent organisation of all the Chartist groups across the country within ‘one Society to be Called “The National Charter Association of Great Britain”’. With this they made history: the formation of the first working-class, mass-member political party in the world.
After the Supreme Court’s game-changing verdict, Paul Seaward of the History of Parliament writes on prorogation: ‘one of the rusting and largely forgotten but still unexploded bombs buried deep in our constitutional arrangements’.
Why has commemoration tended to deprive the Tolpuddle martyrs of their political acumen and capable militancy? To coincide with the annual Tolpuddle Martyr’s Festival, Tom Scriven explores omissions from the ‘martyrdom narrative’ of the six Dorchester labourers who are at the centre of these events.
Petitions are an ancient type of interaction between people and authority that continue to be central to British political culture in the twenty-first century. At the time of writing over 6 million names have been attached to an e-petition to Parliament to revoke article 50 to enable the UK to remain in the EU. Richard Huzzey and Henry Miller look at how the modern form of mass petitions emerged in the nineteenth century to compare them with contemporary e-petitions.