PETERLOO

#1
I'll post this here rather than the 'What film have I just watched thread' as the Peterloo headlines accompanying my newsfeed go beyond Mike Leighs latest film (on general release Nov 2nd).

Mike Leigh's 'Peterloo' is exceptionally good in scene setting and obviously very well researched. Like Waterloo (1970) it relies very heavily on viewers being quite well acquainted with some knowledge of the event to appreciate it. Conversely, like 'Charge of The Light Brigade' (1968) and 'Zulu' it has historical inaccuracies, (cunningly so IMO) probably because it tries too hard to make events of c.200 years ago prescient to current British society. Unlike the above films, with a run time of 154mins (over 2.5hrs!) it's about 45 mins too long and can't be viewed purely for the action, or narrative - there are no 'lead' characters, Leigh delineates the various factions - either viewers have some historic understanding or you can pick up the message it wants to send as 'actual history'.

Fortunately, at the special screening I attended, there were very helpful 10 page booklets (which gave me some revision of my A level British History - from a long time ago). I expect, and hope, these will be available at cinemas and as inserts when it goes to DVD (before next summer?)
The first 3 pages dedicated to 'What is Peterloo?' Why were people protesting?' 'What were the repercussions?' and, importantly, 'The Key Players' listed as a flow chart:-
The Monarchy, Parliament, The Home Office, Magistrates and Spies, The Military and Constabulary. And:
Reformers, Other Journalists, Manchester Female Reform Society.
(More on these later).
The last 3 pages, 'Peterloo Remembered' are probably more indicative of the films agenda other than wishing to portray an historical event:-
The Peoples History Museum (Manchester) are mounting a programme of Exhibitions in spring 2019 such as 'Disrupt? Peterloo and Protest'.
Manchester Histories are running events and activities, Jun - Aug 2019, with 'creatively led themes of protest, democracy and freedom of speech'.
Peterloo Memorial Campaign, '...consistently calling for an end to the astonishing 200-year long whitewashing of the memory of the massacre' and whose first action was to 'demand that the euphemistic 1970s plaque (which did not mention any of the the massacre's deaths or injuries'* (my bold).
They obviously missed the History I was taught during the late 1970s.

* Historian G. M Trevelyan proposed a study into 'The Number of Casualties at Peterloo' in 'History,' Vll (1922). Such a list was compiled in 'The Casualties of Peterloo' by Malcolm and Walter Bee in 'Manchester Region History Review' (1989).

Along with hyberbolix from The Guardian,*
'Peterloo review - grit and brilliance in Mike Leigh's very British massacre', Peter Bradshaw (1st Sep 2018) '... an excitable band of cavalry and yeomanry - whose commander had airily absented himself for a day at the races - charged with sabres drawn into a crowd of 100,000... the troops killed18 and injured hundreds more'.
And the pronouncements of Peterloo actress Maxine Peake warning that 'Peterloo massacre 'could happen again', " We're in a very dangerous place politically at the moment and protest is really important", "We're not a million miles away from it happening again in this country, we've got to be very, very vigilant". Never mind, Comrade Peake goes on to reassure us, "Hope has started to grow" (in Jeremy for PM) - but just in case, the former Communist Party member allegedly keeps her wealth offshore, avoiding tax - presumably in case things gets messy.
Wake up sheeple! Waterloo200 and 1914 -18 are sooo last year. There are bigger battles to commemorate in 2019. Everyone's invited to The Masque of Anarchy**

* The Guardian is keen to be associated with Peterloo, first published 1821 as 'The Manchester Guardian' (2 years after), due its Mancunian origins and tenuous connection to a forerunner 'The Manchester Observer', a Liberal newspaper edited by James Wroe who gave us the term 'Peterloo'.
** Shelleys 'Masque of Anarchy' penned due to Peterloo in 1819 was not actually released until 1832, the same year as 'Representation of the People Act 1832' (The Great Reform Act). A brilliant piece of writing claimed by a few who really don't appreciate many aspects of history - or election results.

At this point, I'm minded of Orwells '1984', "He who controls the past controls the future. He who controls the present controls the past" and David Lowenthal, " History is often hard to digest. But it must be must be swallowed whole to undeceive the present and inform the future". 'The Past is a Foreign Country' - let's invade it (and impose a new order).

From the aforementioned booklet, '60,000 people gathered in St Peter's Fields, 700 people severely injured and 18 killed as a result of the Governments actions. A peaceful demonstration turned violent as the Government instructed The Yeomanry to silence the crowd.

Listed under 'Key Players' we have: Gen Sir John Byng (Commander, Northern District), his deputy, Col L'Estrange, The 15th Hussars, The 31st Foot Regiment, The Manchester and Salford Yeomanry, in that descending order.
The cast list names 3 officers and 1 trooper of 15th Hussars and 1 nameless Yeoman.

So, having done a little revision.
My own research is from 'The Casualties of Peterloo' Michael Bush (2005) and
MASTER LIST OF NAMES CONNECTED WITH PETERLOO pdf off t'internet. Very useful

Current estimates of the crowd suggests between 50 - 60K (as opposed to contemporary accounts of c.150K) the lists of civilian dead and injured names c.650 persons, Bush names about 640.
If you add the 67 Military and 10 Constable injured (and 20 horses) then 700 casualties is not inaccurate - 11% of casualty figures were in the service of The Crown

The Manchester and Salford Yeomanry numbered 120 men - split into 2 equal groups, 15th Hussars had 340 men with 150 in reserve located nearby, also nearby were 420 men of The Cheshire Yeomanry.
Significantly, whilst the 31st Foot (Huntingdonshires, The Young Buffs) were on St Peters Field I found no injury directly attributed to them.
However, The 88th Foot (the Connaught Rangers) were also present and there is testimony to them bayonetting some of the fleeing crowd.
There was also a Royal Horse Artillery presence with 2 x 6lb guns.

Nearly 1000 available Cavalry, 2 foot Regiments and 400 Special Constables dispersed a crowd of nearly 60K in little over 10 minutes resulting in...

2 killed on St Peters Field (Ashton and Ashworth, a Special Constable, sabred)
1 woman (Partington) crushed in a cellar.

11 named (incl. an unborn) died between days and years later (1822)
4 others named are believed/suspected dead: Jones, Hall, Evans, Downes.


The first fatality of the day was a baby (Fildes) knocked from its mothers arms by a galloping Trooper on Cooper St nearby.
The last casualty was John Whitworth, shot by infantry later in the evening of the 16th Aug in New Cross, d. 20th Aug 2019
1 Constable (Campbell) was killed by a mob in Newton Lane the following day
1 baby (Gaunt) died due to the mothers miscarriage in prison later. This would actually contribute to a death toll of 19 attributable to the events at Peterloo.

4 died on the day, 3 on the field, (1 a Constable)


ETA Royal HORSE Artillery - Thanks @offog
 
Last edited:
#2
Like you I clearly remember being taught this at school as part of my CSE history early 70s so I was a little surprised to find out it was a forgotten event. I was also taught the slave triangle at about the same time so another thing that wasn't covered up in my English education.

I think I came across my old history work books a little time ago so may have another look and dig them out to see what we were actually taught about this.

I do remember being told that the name Peterloo came from comment that the cavalry had charged like the have at Waterloo. I was a little surprised by the troops being involved as I seem to remember being taught that they were all Yeomanry and not regular troops, but accept you are better informed than me and my lesson was well over 40 years ago.

How much of this action was the fault of the government at the time I find a little difficult to understand as it would have been down to the local law enforcement (councilors/magistrates) as communications at that time took a number of days and not hours.

As a film is it worth the time and money to take the boss or is it too left wing and pushing an agenda?

As an edite would the RA not be RHA as they had 6lbs and the RA 9lbs.
 

rampant

LE
Kit Reviewer
Book Reviewer
#3
Like you I clearly remember being taught this at school as part of my CSE history early 70s so I was a little surprised to find out it was a forgotten event. I was also taught the slave triangle at about the same time so another thing that wasn't covered up in my English education.

I think I came across my old history work books a little time ago so may have another look and dig them out to see what we were actually taught about this.

I do remember being told that the name Peterloo came from comment that the cavalry had charged like the have at Waterloo. I was a little surprised by the troops being involved as I seem to remember being taught that they were all Yeomanry and not regular troops, but accept you are better informed than me and my lesson was well over 40 years ago.

How much of this action was the fault of the government at the time I find a little difficult to understand as it would have been down to the local law enforcement (councilors/magistrates) as communications at that time took a number of days and not hours.

As a film is it worth the time and money to take the boss or is it too left wing and pushing an agenda?

As an edite would the RA not be RHA as they had 6lbs and the RA 9lbs.
It's still taught in schools, but not every school as they choose what to study from a selection. It's grand they are making a film about it, but Mike Leigh's claim that it's no longer taught in risible at best
 
#4
calling for an end to the astonishing 200-year long whitewashing of the memory of the massacre
Presumably, this'll be followed by a campaign to end the astonishing 52 year long whitewashing of the memory of England's 1966 World Cup victory?'

Pretty much every single history student at university who looks at the 19th century has done Peterloo - it's a fanciful Momentumesque rewriting of history to suggest that it's been suppressed by the toffs/patriarchy/the right/the 'establishment'. If anything, as PP notes, some of the stuff which was current in the literature when I was studying it nearly 30 years ago [30? Dear God...] is in fact an overestimate of the fatalities on the day. And was written by some remarkably establishment-minded historians.

Because Mike Leigh suggests it's deliberately being missed out, lots of leftish types will believe it. One of my university chums is a left-leaning history teacher and is driven to considerable ire whenever he hears Leigh or one of his fawning fans claiming this.


(Sadly for the stereotype, my mate doesn't inflict his views on the students and, if anything overcompensates - to the point that one of his charges thought he was a Thatcherite. I digress)
 

AlienFTM

MIA
Book Reviewer
#5
I was a little surprised by the troops being involved as I seem to remember being taught that they were all Yeomanry and not regular troops,
As stated, 15th Hussars were present. Proper histories of Peterloo describe how the 15th intervened to curb the excesses of the over-enthusiastic Yeomanry with the flat of the sabre and save the death toll from being far, far higher.

Entirely as an aside. I've visited Abergavenny a few times. Two pubs stick in my mind, The King's Head and The King's Arms. One is on the high street next to the market hall. The other is near the castle and the Post Office sorting office. The latter proudly displays a quote that the pub offered the best food and accommodation, by the quartermaster of 15H, dated 1819.

I chatted up to the landlady and asked her about it. She hadn't a clue. I passed on details of the Light Dragoons Association, keepers of the regimental history and invited her to see if they could tell her anything.

In 1819, England still had no full barracks system like we have. Units seemed to take quarters where they could. Personally, I'd just like to know whether 15H were in Abergavenny before or after Peterloo.
 
#6
I also remember studying both the event and its context of revolutionary/radical actions at A level. Tbh where you have 3 relatively small units on 3 sides of a gathering of 60k they have been ordered to clear at once, and the only comms they have is visual that the other units are surrounded the death toll was remarkably small. Haven't seen the film but the guardian like it so it will undoubtably be inaccurate guff portraying it as the Iraq War march with evil right wingers with sabres. Que millenials giving it 'omg!! How was this covered up??!?' as they don't know what a book is and Corbyn demanding a public inquiry.
 

Brotherton Lad

LE
Kit Reviewer
#7
I naively assumed everyone knew about Peterloo. Especially in the Army, since it hasn't been deployed in that way since on this side of the Irish Sea.
 
#8
Sounds like a one-sided view of what happened. For the other side...

Take an illegal demo of 60k, reports of protesters drilling in the hills around Manchester and preparing for trouble, a rabble-rousing orator (Hunt) and some panicky magistrates. No police in those days but plenty of troops in town on MACA. The magistrates ordered the nearest troops to arrest Hunt who was on a wagon in the middle of the demo. Enter two troops of Mancs Yeomanry (60 soldiers or so). They reached the wagons where Hunt told the protesters to do what they had to to stop the arrests. The troops were by now split into groups of 2-3 and more had to be sent in to rescue them as the crowd turned nasty. Several of the dead were trampled as the crowd clearer the square.

If the magistrates had wanted a massacre or to clear by force they had the 15th Hussars, a regiment of Dragoon Guards, the Cheshire Yeo, two infantry battalions and a couple of batteries in the town. The army was taking casualties from bricks etc so it was far from peaceable. (Bonaparte's "whiff of grapeshoot" shows that freedom-loving republicans on the continenet would have been less-restrained

All then souped up by the radicals who wanted a cause celebre.
 
#9
I naively assumed everyone knew about Peterloo. Especially in the Army, since it hasn't been deployed in that way since on this side of the Irish Sea.
Wasn't the army deployed during the General Strike of 1926?
 
#10
Like you I clearly remember being taught this at school as part of my CSE history early 70s so I was a little surprised to find out it was a forgotten event. I was also taught the slave triangle at about the same time so another thing that wasn't covered up in my English education.

I think I came across my old history work books a little time ago so may have another look and dig them out to see what we were actually taught about this.

I do remember being told that the name Peterloo came from comment that the cavalry had charged like the have at Waterloo. I was a little surprised by the troops being involved as I seem to remember being taught that they were all Yeomanry and not regular troops, but accept you are better informed than me and my lesson was well over 40 years ago.

How much of this action was the fault of the government at the time I find a little difficult to understand as it would have been down to the local law enforcement (councilors/magistrates) as communications at that time took a number of days and not hours.

As a film is it worth the time and money to take the boss or is it too left wing and pushing an agenda?

As an edite would the RA not be RHA as they had 6lbs and the RA 9lbs.
I am going to admit my ignorance, I had no idea what it was about till i googled it, thats what science rather than humanities GCSEs does for you
 
Last edited:
#12
[QUOTE
In 1819, England still had no full barracks system like we have. Units seemed to take quarters where they could. Personally, I'd just like to know whether 15H were in Abergavenny before or after Peterloo.[/QUOTE]

@AlienFTM
The 15th Hussars were actually resident in Barracks in Manchester at the time, some witnesses referring to them as 'the Barracks cavalry'.

Of the 3 named 15H Captains, and Trooper, on the cast list, a quick internet search brought nothing up (although I wouldn't doubt research shows them on a nominal).
What's most telling though, is the absence of Lt. Sir Hugh Joliffe.
It was his testimony that describe:
One of 15 H Troopers intervening in protecting one of the crowd from a Yeomanry Trooper.
An officer giving testimony to have one of the crowd released from gaol.
That generally, they showed great forebearance, after being sent in to rescue The MSY.

Strangely, 26 years after the event Joliffe claimed most sabre wounds were inflicted by The Hussars - he wouldn't have been old and senile so I'd be curious to the circumstances of this contradictory boast.

I would say in the film, 15H are portrayed as no better than the MSY. This is a great disservice to a Waterloo unit.
Also, one Tpr pursued a pistol armed member of the crowd into a house.
Also, tellingly, to say The Yeomanry were the catalyst to the event and had some interesting background is also downplayed. Some were neighbours to the injured and from the same class as many of the Reformers albeit many were members of The Pitt Club (Tory). The 15H very much represent 'the Government' as opposed to 'local faction'.
It's also noteworthy that the facing colours of the infantry getting stuck in with the crowd is the buff of the 31st not the yellow of the 88th.
But then, despite the 88th being specifically named as shooting and bayoneting some of the crowd, the 31st are closely associated with Sir John Byng - their Regimental Colour is emblazoned on his coat of arms as 1st Lord Strafford (I'm not suggesting the 31st didn't do anything). Byng, as upper class, not shown in particular good light. He was off at the races but probably thought the meeting would be as well handled as previous meetings on St Peters Fields. The 'Blanketeer' gathering of 1200 had been dispersed by Constables and Militia in March 1817, 2 other gatherings had passed without issue.

The local Magistrates, very Tory and hostile panicked, read The Riot Act called in the very partisan Yeomanry and 60 of them, according to some witnesses, drunkenly blundered to the hustings to arrest the speakers.
One of the dead was bearing the banner with the red cap of liberty on top - bearing in mind many were members of the popular Pitt Clubs, contra Republican - especially due to the recent Napoleonic 100 days emergency, Republican emblems were literally, a red rag.
 
Last edited:

Brotherton Lad

LE
Kit Reviewer
#13
Wasn't the army deployed during the General Strike of 1926?
Yes, but to my rather limited knowledge they didn't kill any one. The Army was also deployed in the 1977 firemen's strike and could well be deployed to guard convoys of food if this current panto goes entirely tits up.

In other words, the Army has not been deployed on this side of the water to use lethal force since Peterloo.
 
#14
@oldnotbold
A few scenes emphasise how the marchers were told to leave any weapons yet march in step, women leading - actually, I think this did happen in some cases.
Another short scene in the film has the magistrates removing stones from the hustings area.
Whilst one MSY witness testified he saw no stones thrown (I suspect he may have been in the second group of 60 that came onto the field later) another MSY had half his ear and some scalp removed by 'a brickbat'.
 

Brotherton Lad

LE
Kit Reviewer
#15
And for example at Sidney Street in 1911. And 'that balcony'. And 21st July terror attacks.

We are talking about the Army deploying lethal force against British citizens in a keeping the peace role. Do keep up.
 
#16
@offog I guess it depends on how well you get on with your boss and how much you're both familiar with the actual history.
It's long, it's very well shot and period detail researched in similar vein to Poldark.
The locations include Gainsborough Old Hall, Shibden Hall, and Gibson's Mill, Hardcastle Craggs where returning Waterloo veteran asks 'is this the way to Manchester?' and local knowledge tells me he's sent the wrong way.
Tim Mcinnerys Prince Regent is a spare part from Blackadder and drilling on t'moors, the most abysmal marching is courtesy of the one redcoat in the ranks.
I'd say it's quite covert in it's agenda so you have to be familiar with it to spot some of it.
There are some good characterisations, Dr Healey and Sam Bamford, 'Orator' Hunt. The actual event lasts an accurate few mins (and the 'dead' left at the scene numbered about 7 - which is 7 more than the depiction of Waterloo).
 
#17
Yes, but to my rather limited knowledge they didn't kill any one. The Army was also deployed in the 1977 firemen's strike and could well be deployed to guard convoys of food if this current panto goes entirely tits up.

In other words, the Army has not been deployed on this side of the water to use lethal force since Peterloo.
Really? There is a world of difference between 'prudent military planning' for the worst case, and the most likely case.
 
#19
Deploying Cavalry has always been the easiest way of dispersing crowds throughout history and in some countries even into the 20th century, so the event was hardly unique.

Any sensible person except politicians can guess what happens when you put armed men against unarmed civilians it almost always ends badly see: Kent State for a recent example in the west. Or any number of developing world countries on any given day.
 

Sixty

ADC
Moderator
Book Reviewer
#20
It's still taught in schools, but not every school as they choose what to study from a selection. It's grand they are making a film about it, but Mike Leigh's claim that it's no longer taught in risible at best
We certainly didn't touch upon it at mine although there was very little appetite for foreign history at that time.
 

New Posts

Latest Threads

Top