The Guardian view on Peterloo, 200 years on: a defining moment | Editorial
We are what we remember. The massacre of men, women and a child at St Peter’s Field in Manchester, 200 years ago on Friday, had a seismic impact and has reverberated ever since. Around 60,000 people – half the local population on some counts – had gathered for a peaceful, orderly and legal rally; 18 died and hundreds were wounded as sabre-wielding cavalry charged into the crowd. Women had played a striking role in organising the meeting, and casualties were disproportionately female.
Its memory was mobilised in the campaigns for successive reform acts, and invoked by suffragettes; Labour’s evocation of a future made by “the many not the few” echoes Shelley’s The Masque of Anarchy, written in anguished response to the slaughter. The meeting grew out of the broader ferment across the north, driven by dire economic straits, yet was an explicitly political demand for representation. Now, those who memorialise it know that universal suffrage is necessary but not sufficient, and politics needs new ways of addressing economic injustice.Continue reading...