On August 16 1819 a crowd of peaceful demonstrators gathered in St Peter’s Field, Manchester, to demand the reform of parliamentary representation. The end of the Napoleonic Wars had ushered in a period of chronic unemployment and severe deprivation. The government, terrified at the prospect of widespread social unrest, ordered first the Manchester and Salford Yeomanry and then the 15th Hussars to charge into the crowd of demonstrators with drawn sabres. Many were killed and hundreds more were injured, sparking a nationwide outcry but also prompting further government suppression. The Peterloo Massacre was a defining moment in British democracy which also played a significant role in the founding of The Guardian newspaper. Mike Leigh’s stirring account of the incident stars Rory Kinnear and Maxine Peake.
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