Issue 229 of SOCIALIST REVIEW Published April 1999 Copyright © Socialist Review
Images of Chartism
Stephen Roberts and Dorothy Thompson
Merlin Press £12.95
Images of Chartism adds a new dimension to our understanding of the Chartists, the world's first mass working class organisation.
Stephen Roberts and Dorothy Thompson have collected together photographs, cartoons and memorabilia of the Chartists. The photograph of the Kennington Common demonstration on Monday 10 April 1848, which attracted over 100,000 people, is a well known image, but there are also pictures of many of the Chartist leaders and Punch cartoons.
The editors have found some genuinely rare items such as the piece of embroidery made by a Chartist schoolgirl at one of the Chartist land settlements in the 1840s. Many of the images here will be familiar to readers who participate in protests today. Others, such as the picture of Chartists attending a church to take issue with an anti-Chartist vicar, are perhaps less obvious.
This is a fascinating book and an important riposte to postmodernist historians who argue that those who take class as their starting point for understanding history, as Roberts and Thompson do, ignore the importance of symbols and images in history.