G.J. Griffiths's Reviews > The Peterloo Massacre

The Peterloo Massacre by Robert Reid
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I was reading Robert Reid’s book at the time I saw Mike Leigh’s excellent film of the same name; it was attended by the director who was available for a questions and answers session afterwards. The two melded well in my thoughts then and in my memory much later. What comes across so clearly is the undoubted inequality and lack of rights or privileges allowed for the lower classes at that time. All the cards were in the hands of the landed gentry and their toadies and lackeys, with some such as Deputy Constable Joseph Nadin, only too willing to administer their own particular brand of justice in a violent and ruthless fashion. On the day magistrates and many of the military officers were so convinced that any kind of gatherings, or calls for reform of government, were the start of a threatened revolution, of the kind that had occurred in France or in America that they panicked into the use of military force.

Robert Reid describes in great detail the events that led up to 16th August 1819, with a named cast list of the main characters, and the various influences that affected their actions and poor decisions. The resulting, senseless, carnage and terrible injuries to innocent men, women and children caused by poorly trained officers of ill-disciplined yeomanry and hussars was never officially recognised. Many of those responsible were applauded and promoted later, with deliberately “blind eyes” being cast about, even as high as the Home Secretary, the Prime Minister and the Prince Regent. Lord Sidmouth, Home Secretary, proposed The Six Acts to the House of Commons, using the unrest at Peterloo as an excuse. It said that “every meeting for radical reform is an overt act of treasonable conspiracy against the King and his government”. This indicates that the government was out-of-date with the kind of mentality prominent in the previous century.

The Peterloo Massacre is one of the major disgraces of the British government during the 19th century in my opinion. Although I think that Reid’s book is excellent, in the research and details so obviously used, I found that I had to disagree with some of his own observations about the incident and some of the characters. When he describes Nadin as “fearless” I consider the corrupt policeman to be sadistic in the extreme. And I think that the author does little to condemn people like John Lloyd and the outrageous dereliction of duty shown by General Byng, who absented himself that day to go to the races, when he had been appointed as being in overall charge of the military forces at St Peter’s Field. Finally the author seems to be of the general opinion that the horrendous day known as The Peterloo Massacre did virtually nothing to further the cause of working people’s rights. Fortunately, the horrors were well documented by the press, including some of the most prestigious papers in Manchester and London and there is no doubt that some of the more enlightened upper class radicals and future working class Chartists would see it as a rallying point at a more opportune time
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Reading Progress

Started Reading
March 12, 2019 – Shelved
March 12, 2019 – Shelved as: history
March 12, 2019 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-2 of 2 (2 new)

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David Higginson Yes, I'm still halfway through, but seeing the film has brought it more to life. Have just read Angel Meadow by Dean Kirby, and that really brings home the conditions, and poverty people were living in at that time.


G.J. Griffiths David Higginson wrote: "Yes, I'm still halfway through, but seeing the film has brought it more to life. Have just read Angel Meadow by Dean Kirby, and that really brings home the conditions, and poverty people were livin..."

Hi David,
Thanks for the mention of Angel Meadow. I've just read through a few of the reviews and am now convinced that I wish to add it to my want to read list. I will download the kindle ASAP but I've got about 6 more books in a queue first!
I'm also part-way through writing the third book in my Quarry Bank Tales series - not spending enough time on that either!
Graham


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