Peterloo and the changing definition of seditious assembly
in Protest and the politics of space and place, 1789–1848
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The Peterloo Massacre of 16 August 1819 in Manchester was the defining event of this period. It unified radical groups across northern England and indeed Britain in a shared abhorrence of the authorities’ actions. It also made loyalists across the country and in government reconsider their attitude towards public assemblies and working-class collective action. The ‘Six Acts’ of late 1819 reflected the government’s changed attitude towards ‘sedition’, whereby they moved away from seeking to prosecute for seditious libel and concentrated on public assemblies causing fear among local elites. This chapter then examines the last flourish of radical activity in the Queen Caroline agitation of 1820 before collective action subsided in the 1820s.

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