Official report into the Peterloo Massacre

This is the official report into a meeting held at St Peter’s Fields, Manchester in August 1819, during which 11 people were killed and 400 wounded. The assembled crowd, which was estimated to be upwards of 60,000 people, had gathered to hear famous orators of the day such as Henry Hunt talk about parliamentary reform.

Fearing a riot due to the presence of so many reformers in a single location, the magistrate ordered the local yeomen to arrest Hunt. The crowd resisted and the yeomen charged, killing and wounding members of the crowd as they went. The event was soon known as the Peterloo Massacre in reference to the Battle of Waterloo, which had occurred four years before.

The meeting at St Peter’s Fields did not directly achieve any parliamentary reform and actually led to a suppression of civil liberties. Following the massacre, the Tory government introduced 'Six Acts' to suppress radical newspapers and seditious meetings, with the aim of reducing the chance of an armed uprising. However, the Peterloo Massacre did create martyrs for the cause of reform and the anger of the masses only served to strengthen support for change. Although some reform was achieved in 1832, public discontent persisted and began to lay the foundations of Chartism.

The report into the Peterloo Massacre provides context for the environment in which the Chartists would later run their campaign. The list of the dead and injured demonstrates that there were serious dangers involved for those who advocated reform of the political system.

Taken from: Peterloo Report
Date: 1820
Copyright: By permission of the British Library Board
Shelfmark: RB.23.b.4235 (1), pp.24-25