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Radicalism and reform remembered in museum-inspired online course


The legacy of the Peterloo Massacre will be explored in a new free-to-join online course, launching August 2019: 200 years on from this milestone in British democracy.

‘Peterloo to the Pankhursts: Radicalism and Reform in the 19th Century looks at the history of radicalism and reform, and the factors that bound events a century apart, in a way that is accessible to all.  The formation of modern democratic ideas is the starting point, and the campaign for votes for women is where the learning journey ends.   The project is developed by People’s History Museum and Royal Holloway, University of London, with expert archivists, curators and historians from both organisations leading the interactive learning.

The learning experience is brought to life through the examination of original artefacts and documents, the use of specially commissioned illustrations and animations, and the opportunity to watch compelling historical testimony and speeches — some dramatised for the first time. ‘Peterloo to the Pankhursts’ will be available on FutureLearn, Europe’s leading online social learning platform, to make it accessible and convenient for all.  Also supporting ‘Peterloo to the Pankhursts’, with materials from their collections featured, are History of Parliament Trust, Parliamentary Archives and The National Archives.

Dr Shirin Hirsch, researcher for People’s History Museum, says, “The Peterloo Massacre is a watershed moment for rights and representation, but this was just the beginning with ‘Peterloo to the Pankhursts’ mapping out how the events that came afterwards unfolded, and where the linkages lie.

“The scale and impact of Peterloo was unprecedented, and yet awareness levels have remained fairly low.  We hope the course will give people the opportunity to make a connection to this period of history and through it gain an insight into its importance to our lives today.”

Dr Matthew Smith, Senior Fellow-Public History from the Department of History at Royal Holloway, added: “We’re delighted to be launching this course with the People’s History Museum for the nationally important bicentenary of Peterloo and engaging learners nationwide.

“Peterloo to the Pankhursts’ is a course of firsts – it is the first university produced free online course designed to align closely to the collections and visitor experience of a national museum and it will enable visitors to continue to explore ‘ideas worth fighting for’ online.

“It is also the first to bring together expertise and objects from People’s History Museum, the Parliamentary Archives and The National Archives and contains modern day adaptations of historic speeches, some filmed for the first time.”

‘Peterloo to the Pankhursts’ will run for the first time on Monday 12 August 2019 and the last date for enrolment is Sunday 20 October 2019.  The course takes four weeks to complete, requiring four hours of study a week, and is free-to-join on FutureLearn.  ‘Peterloo to the Pankhursts’ is also due to run a number of times in 2020. 

‘Peterloo to the Pankhursts’ is part of Royal Holloway’s Citizens Project, which is supported by The National Lottery Heritage Fund.  For People’s History Museum, the national museum of democracy, it forms part of a year that has been dedicated to the exploration of the past, present and future of protest throughout its galleries, exhibitions, learning and events programme.  In its main galleries and current exhibition, Disrupt? Peterloo and Protest, you can find some of the artefacts featured as part of the ‘Peterloo to the Pankhursts’ learning programme and gain a greater insight into the events and historical moments that feature as part of the course.

Also supporting ‘Peterloo to the Pankhursts’, with materials from their collections featured, are History of Parliament Trust, Parliamentary Archives and The National Archives.

People’s History Museum is open seven days a week from 10.00am to 5.00pm. Radical Lates are on the second Thursday each month, open until 8.00pm.  The museum and its exhibitions are free to enter with a suggested donation of £5.  To find out about visiting the museum, its full exhibition and events programme, visit

More information on ‘Peterloo to the Pankhursts’ is available at:

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