British Social History

Essay by orthnerkCollege, UndergraduateA-, November 2002

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The working class of Britain in the 1830s wanted political emancipation. Dorothy Thompson discusses her opinion of this British working class movement in her article "Chartism - Success or Failure?" Believing Chartism was successful, she parlays her opinion in a non-biased fashion posing the question of whether or not it really was successful because it did not gain in any area of political reform it was seeking. Although many believe, including Thompson, that Chartism began with the passing of the Reform Bill of 1832 and was ultimately unsuccessful in achieving political reform, it did succeed by initiating a working class consciousness. After reading this article, I agree with Thompson concerning it being a successful movement in raising working class consciousness but I disagree with Chartism's origins.

According to Thompson, Chartism was the result of the working class realizing they would need their own representation when it came to achieving political emancipation.

Chartism was named after the drafting of the People's Charter, the bill that would achieve political reform for the working class. Initially the working class believed that if they supported the middle class in their bid for reform, they too would then be included. A few men organizing the movement knew the middle class "had no intention whatever of including working men in their new political fellowship." According to Thompson, the Reform Bill of 1832 was the beginning of the realization of separation between the working and middle classes. I believe the Chartist movement must have been underway long before the Reform Bill of 1832 was passed because many Chartists had already reconciled the middle class would not be supporting their claim for political reform.

The working class began to recognize class differences much earlier, possibly in the early 1790s. Thomas Spence and his followers began to work on...