Chartism: A New Organisation of the People

Chartism was a mass political movement in Victorian Britain, lasting from around 1837 to the early 1850s and composed of millions of working class men and women, that campaigned for the democratisation of the British constitution. Their aims were embodied by the Six points of the people’s Charter.

When parliament initially rejected the reforms proposed by Chartists in 1839, many believed that violent revolution would be the only way to achieve political change. This ultimately resulted in the Newport Rising in late 1839 - an attempt by around 10,000 chartist sympathisers to violently release a group of Chartistwho had been imprisoned by the government for subversive activity. 

However, when the rising failed, many Chartists began advocate an alternative means to achieve constitutional and social change by emphasising the importance of the individual self-development and moral improvement of the working classes as integral to their ambitions for societal transformation. These series of items relate to this strand of 'Moral Force Chartism' - those Chartists who wanted to achieve political reform through peaceful persuasion rather than violent revolution. 

The items focus on the main strategies employed by such chartist, in particular their advocacy of abstinence from alcohol and the self-education of the working-classes as underpinning and supporting their desires for social reform. It also touches upon the role of the Chartist press as a way through which their message was disseminated to their supporters. Finally, it looks at the criticism of such campaigns from those within the Chartist movement who maintained that such schemes undermined unity of purpose within the Chartist movement and detracted from its main aims.