The Peterloo Massacre of 1819, a seminal event in Britain’s democratic history, is set to be brought to life through a new educational film project called Archives Alive: Peterloo from Royal Holloway, University of London in partnership with The National Archives.
Supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund through a National Lottery grant of £10,000, Archives Alive: Peterloo, will create a series of 15 short films, produced and managed by Royal Holloway, featuring dramatized readings of archival material relating to Peterloo. The films will include contemporary witness testimonies and official reports concerning the Peterloo Massacre of 1819, 200 years since this pivotal event took place.
Archives Alive: Peterloo also offers an exciting range of opportunities for volunteers to get involved with, including Research Retreats to examine temporary newspaper accounts and government reports, writing blog posts exploring key documents and, for school pupils, the chance to present a video introducing the topic.
The Peterloo Massacre took place in St Peter’s Fields in Manchester on 16 August 1819, when a large crowd of approximately 60,000 men, women, and children gathered to demand the reform of Parliament. Working people wanted to be heard and given the right to vote, and this demonstration was intended to bring about change to make Parliament more representative of the people.
However, what was planned to be a peaceful demonstration turned into an infamous and bloody massacre, as cavalry were sent by local magistrates to disperse the crowd by force, resulting in at least 15 deaths and hundreds of injuries.
The films will be made available from summer 2019 through a number of channels including: The National Archives education webpages, a Parliamentary Archives exhibition on Peterloo at the UK Parliament later this year, the History of Parliament’s website, and the People’s History Museum in Manchester.
The Archives Alive: Peterloo project builds upon the expertise of the Royal Holloway Citizens Project, led by Dr Matthew Smith, which produces a suite of free, video-based learning resources for schools, exploring British political and constitutional history over the last 800 years.
Commenting on the award, Professor Kate Cooper, Head of the Department of History at Royal Holloway, said: “Archives Alive: Peterloo promises to create an excellent range of resources to help learners of all ages engage with the significance and legacy of Peterloo, a key moment in the nineteenth century struggle for rights and representation.
“We are delighted to have received support from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, to enable us to embark on this educational film project.”
Chris Day, Head of Modern Domestic Records at The National Archives, added: “Archives Alive: Peterloo brings to life The National Archives’ unparalleled collection of documents recording the Peterloo Massacre and makes them accessible to a new audience. The 200th anniversary will bring greater awareness of the massacre which was a tragic but important milestone in the history of British democracy.”
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