Write an essay responding to the following:
Which is more important in explaining the public support for Chartism:
economic circumstances, or Chartism’s cultural community?
Chartism was the first mass working class labour movement in the world. Beginning in 1838, Chartists called for political reform in the United Kingdom. The nature of their proposed reforms were laid out in the six point People’s Charter of 1838, and it is from this, that Chartism took its name. The Chartist movement is seen by historians as a continuation of the fight against corruption in British politics, and as a new phase in demands for democracy in the world’s first industrialised society. The sheer extent of support which Chartism achieved is probably best demonstrated by the scale of the National Petition of 1842. The petition was presented to Parliament on 2nd May of that year, and had been signed by 3,317,752 people. The census of 1831 had recorded the combined population of England, Scotland and Wales at 18,534,332. Even though such a large proportion of the population had signed this petition, it was rejected by Parliament. It is probably over-simplifying the subject, in trying to choose either economic hardship, or the cultural community which developed within the Chartist movement, in attempting to explain the public support it enjoyed. For the movement to garner such an immense following amongst the working classes, economic hardship led to the birth of Chartism, and in turn, the sense of unity experienced by the disenfranchised poor, developed from this, making the Chartist movement a national campaign.
In promoting economic hardship as the main factor for the popularity of Chartism, historians comment that support for the Chartist movement reached its height in the years 1839, 1842 and 1848, when downturns in the British economy led to suffering and poverty within the working classes. It was in these years the Chartists organised...