Chartism: Working Class and Inclusive Cultural Community

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In the history block of this module, you learnt about three explanations for Chartism’s support – a reaction to economic pressure, national political movement and an inclusive cultural community. What evidence is there in the extract above of examples of each of these factors? Which of the three, if any appear to dominate in this extract?

The speech is a primary source of information reproduced on page 5 of the Northern Star newspaper, the main voice in print of Chartism (O’Day et al., 2011, p107). It is an extract of a speech made by an unknown speaker and chosen by the course team therefore one cannot be absolutely sure of the veracity of the piece as a true representation of the Chartist movement. This appears to be a politically motivated speech aimed at rallying support rather than an exposition of Chartism. It does include references to the audiences’ economic circumstances, as if needing to justify the political focus. More emphasis will be placed on the political and economic rhetoric as references to inclusivity are limited. All three themes will be considered but the intention is to demonstrate that political action is the key theme of the speech.

The Chartist movement came into being because of the economic circumstances of the working classes in industrial areas. This is reinforced by Asa Briggs who argues that Chartism was strongest in those older industrial areas where industry was dying or in newer areas where industry was expanding. Rural areas of the country had few or no supporters at all (Briggs 1959 Secondary Source 1). The speech was made at a period of economic stress and high social tension (O’Day et al., 2011, p117), and the first eight lines of Paragraph 4 of the extract concentrate on the economic theme. “Destitution in horrid form stalks through streets (Para 4 Line1), “its emaciated frames, its haggard features, its ragged clothing (Para 4 Line3) and “its skeleton-like, ghastly aspect” (Para4 Line 4). These references build a...
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