Chartism was the largest protest movement by working class people that Britain has ever seen, Chartist wanted a host of reforms which were highlighted in the Peoples Charter, which is were the Chartist name derives itself from. The People Charter of 1838 set about six points including: the vote for all adult males aged over 21, payment for MP’s, equal electoral districts, secret ballot, no property qualification for MP’s and annual general elections.
The Chartist movement did eventually fail, in terms of obtaining their objective and the reason why they failed had been subject to much debate. Most historians who have studied Chartism can be grouped into threes reason why Chartism failed; Chartism failed because if economic and social changes, Chartism failed because of internet weakness of the movement and internal divisions within the movement and Chartism did not really fail in the truest sense of the word, it was defeated by the state.
The economic and social change interpretation, some historians have argued that improving economic conditions ensured that the Chartist movement faded away after 1848. The economic conditions of Britain from 1837 had played its part in giving rise to Chartism so economic recovery in the mid 1840’s had made it difficult for Chartism to maintain a popular campaign.
Economic recovery from 1848 - 1846 which improved employment and the moral of the people, help britain enjoy prosperity thus movement could no longer be sustained. Further economic and social changes also hit the Chartist movement such as the development of the railways. The railways helped stimulus industries like, iron, steel and coal, these new industries helped wider economic growth, more so that old traditional industries such as, textiles.
As worker moved into a new industrial age, they looked to new societies to protect their interests these new working class organisations, promoted self respect, individual reliance and self help. They also offered protection to workers that they had never had before, Friendly Societies offered protection against sickness and unemployment which was an attractive alternative to the dreaded workhouse. The Co-operative society offered unadulterated food and 5 per cent dividend on all purchases to all members each year. The New Model Unions, was like a small trade union linked to skilled workers and campaigned for improved conditions and wages. These unions mainly represented the interests of the top end of the working class population e.g. the emerging ‘labour aristocracy’ of whom the would have been the ideal candidates to help lead the movement forward, yet they shunned the movement and worked all the new societies to gain gradual improvements within the existing political frame work. The societies also promoted members to work with employers to secure their position and indeed improve on it. Some Historians have this as the ‘embourgiosement’ of the working class.
The industrial change that chartist grew from and fought, ultimately killed off their movement, as Chartism grew from rural areas were most of their supporter worked and lived, it couldn’t cope with the urbanisation if Britain. The new industrial cities were far more controlling that the countryside could ever be, were police, clergy and middle class propaganda promoted the ideals of self help, laissez faire and sobriety, the new cities didn’t have the same community as the countryside which help Chartist thrive. The urbanisation of Britain moved movements like Chartism from the home to the trade clubs of the cities.
Some Historians have argued the ‘Inherent Weakness’ interpretation as the major reason for the failure of the Chartism movement, based on the idea that the movement was riddled with inherent weaknesses, including, divided leadership, regional differences and an underlying tactical naivety.
As it became clear that the house of common wouldn’t take...