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Peterloo to the Pankhursts: Radicalism and Reform in the 19th Century

Discover the history of protest, parliament and citizens’ rights.

10,015 enrolled on this course

Illustration of the Peterloo Massacre by George Cruikshank
  • Duration

    4 weeks
  • Weekly study

    4 hours

Improve your understanding of important milestones in political history

16th August 2019 marks the bicentenary of the Peterloo Massacre, a key milestone in the campaign to reform Parliament in the 19th century, and an important part of Britain’s democratic heritage and history. On this course, you will understand this event within a wider context of radicalism and reform over the 19th century.

You will first explore the birth of modern democratic ideas and responses to the American and French revolutions in the 18th century. You will end the course by examining the campaign for universal men’s and women’s suffrage in the early years of the 20th century.

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Skip to 0 minutes and 6 seconds Peterloo to the Pankhursts is a new online course being developed by Royal Holloway University of London and the People’s History Museum, funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund. Exploring the history of radicalism and reform, the course aims to put the Peterloo Massacre, which occurred 200 years ago this August, into its broader context of a century long struggle for rights and representation for the people. Supported by the National Archives, the Parliamentary Archives, and the History of Parliament, Peterloo to the Pankhursts will offer learners the chance to examine original artefacts and documents, watch compelling historical testimony and speeches, some dramatised for the first time. And explore our democratic heritage through specially commissioned illustrations and animations.

Skip to 0 minutes and 52 seconds All with expert insights from archivists, curators, and historians. No prior knowledge is required to take the course, which is open to all– free– and starts on Future Learn, on Monday, the 12th of August, 2019. Peterloo to the Pankhursts is part of Royal Holloway Citizens Project, supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

What topics will you cover?

Each week will have a thematic focus:

  • Revolutions. Week one explores how revolutions in political thought; in agriculture and industry; and America and France led to increasing calls for the reform of Parliament, culminating in the Peterloo Massacre of 1819.
  • Reform. Week two examines key moments, movements and figures associated with reform in the first half of the nineteenth century, including Catholic Emancipation; the Great Reform Act and Chartism; the abolition of slavery; the Poor Law Amendment Act and the Repeal of the Corn Laws.
  • Workers: Week three charts the emergence of trade unionism, British responses to and variations of socialism and the establishment and early electoral fortunes of the Labour Party.
  • Voters: The course concludes with an exploration of when, how and why the vote was extended by Reform Acts in the second half of the nineteenth century, examining the role of both popular campaigns and political calculation. This week culminates with the emergence of mass politics and calls for universal male and (limited) women’s suffrage at the turn of the century.

When would you like to start?

Start straight away and join a global classroom of learners. If the course hasn’t started yet you’ll see the future date listed below.

  • Available now

Learning on this course

On every step of the course you can meet other learners, share your ideas and join in with active discussions in the comments.

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you‘ll be able to...

  • Improve your understanding of key milestones in the extension of citizens rights and representation in the nineteenth century.
  • Explore the origins and path of the course of Parliamentary reform from the impact of the American and French Revolutions to the First World War.
  • Reflect upon and debate the role of popular protest in effecting political change.
  • Improve your understanding of the development of workers' rights and the emergence of modern trade unionism and the Labour Party.
  • Compare the responses of the Liberal and Conservative parties to calls for universal suffrage and the emergence of mass politics.

Who is the course for?

This course is for anyone with an interest in political and social history, including the history of British Parliament, trade unionism and the labour movement.

Who will you learn with?

Steven Franklin, PhD researcher at Royal Holloway, University of London, and Project Officer for the Citizens project, of which this course is a component.

Medieval ECR Historian, Citizens Project Officer and AHRC Creative Economy Engagement Fellow at Royal Holloway, University of London & The National Archives.

Dr Matthew Smith, Senior Lecturer in Public Humanities, Royal Holloway, University of London

Researcher at People's History Museum and Lecturer at Manchester Metropolitan Museum

Who developed the course?

Royal Holloway, University of London

Queen Victoria presided over the grand opening of Royal Holloway in 1886. Since then the College has continued to grow in size and status to become one of the top research-led institutions in the UK.

People's History Museum

The People’s History Museum is the national museum of democracy, telling the story of its development in Britain: past, present, and future.

Endorsers and supporters

funded by

Heritage Lottery Fund

content provided by

Parliamentary Archives

content provided by

The History of Parliament

content provided by

The National Archives

Learning on FutureLearn

Your learning, your rules

  • Courses are split into weeks, activities, and steps to help you keep track of your learning
  • Learn through a mix of bite-sized videos, long- and short-form articles, audio, and practical activities
  • Stay motivated by using the Progress page to keep track of your step completion and assessment scores

Join a global classroom

  • Experience the power of social learning, and get inspired by an international network of learners
  • Share ideas with your peers and course educators on every step of the course
  • Join the conversation by reading, @ing, liking, bookmarking, and replying to comments from others

Map your progress

  • As you work through the course, use notifications and the Progress page to guide your learning
  • Whenever you’re ready, mark each step as complete, you’re in control
  • Complete 90% of course steps and all of the assessments to earn your certificate

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