Power Politics and Protest

Key Question:
Why did people resort to violent
protest and how successful were they?
i. Identify three examples of violent protest from
this era
ii. Explain the reasons for each of these protests
iii. Evaluate the impact of these protests
In this lesson we will
look at how the great
economic and social
changes of the
agricultural and
industrial revolutions
led to political unrest,
protests and violence.
The lives of the working class...
• In the 19th Century the
working class were not
allowed to vote
• Only wealthy landowners
were represented in
• There was no-one to argue
for the rights of the ordinary
• Their lives were very harsh.
In the countryside...
• The farm-workers had
suffered through enclosure
• More and more of their
jobs were being done by
• Wages were low
• Life was very hard
• Most families lived on the
edge of starvation.
In the industrial towns and cities...
There was unemployment
Wages were low
Hours were long
Working conditions were dangerous
Living conditions were crowded and filthy
The price of flour was constantly rising
The Government was worried...
• In 1789 the French people had overthrown
their rulers
• The British government was determined to
keep control and stamp out any protests
• It did not see its role as improving the lives of
the ordinary people
• The ordinary people had no vote and so the
MPs had no reason to try to help them.
In 1819
Violence was used to stop a protest movement in
Manchester, the army killed the protesters in the
Peterloo Massacre...
The Luddites
• The Luddites were skilled cloth
• They were gradually being
replaced by machinery, which
could be operated by unskilled
• They began breaking the
machines in the factories
• The Government cracked down
on the Luddites
• If they were caught the Luddites
were executed or transported
• The movement died out – the
tide of new machinery was
Captain Swing
• The Swing Riots broke out after farmworkers in the South lost their jobs,
when threshing machines were
• The rioters wrote threatening letters
to farmers, telling them not to use
• They set light to hayricks and burned
down farm buildings and smashed
threshing machines
• The government cracked down on
the rioters. 19 people were executed,
including a 12 year old boy. Over a
thousand were transported or jailed
• Like the Luddites, the protests failed
because the introduction of the new
machinery could not be stopped.
The Grand National Consolidated
Trade Union
• A trade union is a group of
workers who join together to
get better rights from their
• The government was very
suspicious of any organised
groups of workers
• Robert Owen started the
Grand National Consolidated
Trade Union
• The Union failed after tough
government action with the
prosecution of the Tolpuddle
Robert Owen, founder of the GNCTU
The Tolpuddle
• The martyrs were a group of poor farmworkers
• They joined the GNCTU, hoping to
improve their working conditions
• They were not violent but they did swear
an oath to keep the secrets of their Union
• The government were worried about the
• They decided to make an example of the
farm-workers from Tolpuddle
• They were charged with “administering
illegal oaths”
• The workers were transported to
Australia for 7 years
• The GNCTU collapsed.
In 1832 the Government passed a Reform
Act, which people hoped would allow more
people to vote for Parliament
In fact it was only Middle Class men who
got the vote, so the Chartists were set up
The Chartists were a group of ordinary
working class men who presented petitions
to Parliament
The government ignored the Chartists
The movement failed to gain the vote for
workers, but it did raise awareness of the
unfairness in the Political System.
The Rebecca
• These riots took place in Wales
• They were a protest at the high rates being charged to travel on
the roads by the Turnpike Trusts
• The poorer farm-workers could not afford to take their animals/
goods to market
• The rioters were men who dressed as women, ‘Rebecca and her
• They smashed up the Turnpikes
• Those who were caught were executed or transported