CECS, IPUP and English launch major Peterloo retrospective

Posted on 25 October 2018

On 2nd November, CECS, IPUP and the Department of English and Related Literature will launch a series of events to commemorate and understand the notorious Peterloo massacre.


In August 1819, armed cavalry charged into a crowd of more than 60,000 men and women who had gathered in Manchester to demand Parliamentary Reform, killing several people, including a child and at least one veteran of the Battle of Waterloo. Hundreds more were injured. The Massacre was condemned in Percy Bysshe Shelley's famous poem 'The Mask of Anarchy' with its memorable final line 'Ye are many - they are few'.

York has a particular link to the event as the reformers were tried here in 1820 and walked across the Pennines to attend the court sessions as recorded in Samuel Bamford's autobiography Passages in the Life of a Radical.

The first event coincides with the release of Mike Leigh's powerful new film, Peterloo, and features Professor Jon Mee in conversation with Jacqueline Riding, historical adviser to the film. It will be followed by a Q&A at the showing of the film at the York Picturehouse the next day. 

In March 2019, the Centre for Eighteenth Century Studies will hold a one-day conference, sponsored by the Romantic Bicentennials project to be convened by Professor Mee and Dr Mary Fairclough. The conference will be preceded by a 'Beer and Ballads' evening to commemorate the conviviality and commitment of the period's radical meetings. Bamford was a famous ballad and song writer and stayed in a pub on Skeldersgate before his trial. There will be an opportunity for members of the public to print commemorative broadsides at the department's Thin Ice Press, and learn more about the role of print in spreading news of the horrific massacre, and demands for reform. Details will be confirmed later in the year, but both events will be open to the public.

Mike Leigh himself will be a guest of the Festival of Ideas in June when he will be in conversation with Professor Mee followed by a Q&A session and another opportunity for 'Beer and Ballads.'

More events are planned in 2020 to coincide with the anniversary of the trials.