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On the 16 August 1819 around 80,000 men, women and children gathered to hear the charismatic orator Henry Hunt speak upon the pressing need for democratic and social reform. They had filed into St Peters Field from across Manchester and its satellite villages and towns. Some had walked many miles to attend.

In 1819, despite its size and importance, Manchester did not have an MP and only a small number of wealthy male inhabitants were eligible to vote. Rapid industrialisation, urbanisation and population growth had catapulted Manchester from a sleepy town to the shock city of the industrial revolution. Conditions were squalid and wages low. Many working people felt that if they had the vote their voices would be heard and their sufferings remedied.

For a detailed description of the Manchester Observer newspaper see article by Robert Poole, ‘The Manchester Observer: Biography of a Radical Newspaper’ Bulletin of the John Rylands Library, 95:1 (Spring 2019), 30–122, which can be accessed here