Defending the liberty to meet, 1795–1819
in Protest and the politics of space and place, 1789–1848
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From 1795 radicals and trades unions held mass meetings in politically resonant sites. This chapter examines their defence of the liberty to meet during and after the French and Napoleonic wars. It surveys the response in northern England to government legislation against ‘seditious’ writings and meetings. It underlines the significance of the ‘mass platform’ and its meeting sites, and how working-class groups hired their own meeting rooms and developed networks of delegates and unions across the North. These were sites of contestation over legality and public space. The March of the Blanketeers in 1817 marked a turning point in government fears of revolution and in radicals’ strategies. The chapter concludes with the revival of reform societies in 1818-19, providing the context for the Peterloo Massacre of 1819.

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