Monday 8 December 2014

People's History Museum - Revolution

The People's History Museum, Left Bank, Spinningfields, Manchester.
We spent two very interesting and moving hours at the People's History Museum while we were in Manchester. The museum has the largest collection of political material in Britain, spanning working people's demand for a better world, be it better working conditions, higher living standards, or demands for the vote.  There is a collection of over 2,000 political posters covering elections and issue campaigns as well as the largest collection of trade union and political banners in the world.

The main theme in Gallery One is Revolution and the exhibits start with the Peterloo Massacre in 1819, which led to the first reform of Parliament in 1832. Manchester, the centre of Britain's Industrial Revolution and the world's first industrial city was also one of the first cities where people tried to improve their working and living conditions. The reform meeting of 60,000 people on St Peter's Field resulted in 18 dead and over 400 seriously injured when magistrates sent in soldiers to arrest the leaders.

The displays go on to trace the birth of democratic ideas, including:

the abolition of slavery

demands for the vote

the Chartists

but also groups like the Levellers and individuals such as John Wilkes, Tom Paine, Mary Wollstonecraft, William Cobbett, Francis Burdett and the Cato Street Conspirators.

The next section of the exhibition was about the growth of the trade union movement,

starting with the Tolpuddle Martyrs, six workers arrested and convicted for attempting to form a union in 1834. They were all pardoned in 1836 following a public outcry.

This section included the differences between unions for skilled and unskilled workers



including workers who found it hard to join a union.



And striking workers whose demands were met, like the women workers at the Bruant and May match factory in London who went on strike in 1889, demanding better conditions and more pay.

The Trades Union Congress (TUC) held their first meeting in Manchester in 1868. 

We found out that in the 1850s trade union leaders wore top hats.

Following the ideas of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels who based a lot of their writings on the conditions of the working class in Manchester, Socialism grew from the 1880s, and socialist groups helped form the Labout Party in 1900.

There were displays about the formation of the Labour Party in 1906,

A large section on women's struggle to gain the vote. 


Demands for the vote began in the 1860s and by 1903 a lack of success led to the adoption of militancy.


Alice Nobel's arrest warrant, 1907. Ms Noble was 16 when she travelled from Leeds to London to attend a Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU) demonstration. She was arrested for 'disorderly conduct' and sent to prison.

Women over 30 received the vote in 1918.

There was a section on the General Strike in 1926, but my photographs did not come out well
the Spanish Civil War


and the Second World War


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