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Was Chartism a failure

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Was Chartism a failure? Over the last few decades, historians have debated among themselves trying to decide how successful or not this movement was; a movement that would have provided vast opportunities in a political sense to the working classes. Chartism was a working class movement which emerged in 1836, which aimed at extending the political rights and opportunities to the working classes. The term Chartism originated from the People's Charter which outlined the six main aims of the Chartist movement; the enactment of universal suffrage, equal representation, the abolition of the property qualification, vote by ballot, annual parliaments and the payment of members.1 It has to also be included that the implementation of the People's Charter was not the only aim of Chartism, but to also create within the people a working class conscience. The Chartist movement ended in 1848 without the implementation of any of its six aims, which led to the belief by many that the Chartist movement was a failure. However, considering the fact that by 1928, five out the six aims had been introduced by the government have led historians to question to what extent and why the Chartist movement was really a failure. ...read more.


Chartism, therefore, "drew attention to social and economic evils and awakened public opinion to the need for improvement"8 Marx described the Chartist movement as a success as it united the people under a common class which focused on the social evils which society had placed upon them.9 He believed that Chartism was a "compact form of (proletarian) opposition to the bourgeoisie"10, thus he regarded the Chartist movement as a collective working class movement. The importance of Chartism, according to Marx was that it highlighted the importance of the working class conscience. The Chartist movement can be regarded as a crucial stage in the growth of political awareness in the working class as it "afforded the opportunity of an apprenticeship in political activity to working men, traditions handed down to a later generation assisting in the formation of the Independent Labour Party at the end of the century."11 The Chartist movement was used by the working classes as an example upon which future movements and organisations could be built upon. The Chartist movement taught the people the valuable and extensive knowledge of how to organise and carry out protests. S. J. Lee argues that the Chartist movement showed the working classes "how to avoid the repetition of basic mistakes."12 The failure of Chartism has been described by historians as a ...read more.


In conclusion, the failure or the success of Chartism can be determined by examining whether the Chartist movement was successful in achieving its aims. There were two main aims of Chartism which were, firstly, to implement the People's Charter and secondly, to induce within the working classes a sense of political awareness. In terms of achieving the implementation of the People's Charter, the evidence points to the Chartist movement being a success. Although in 1848, the chartist movement collapsed, the ideas and influences of Chartism remained and coupled with the fear of civil unrest led to many of the Chartist ideas being introduced in the Reform Acts of 1867 and 1884. Chartism was a success in instilling within the working classes a sense of class consciousness. The movement led the way as an example for future political organisation and movements. The Chartist movement opened the way for more working class people to understand the importance of political participation. Overall, Chartism failed as a movement but succeeded in inspiring future movements and organisations due to its ideas and influences. As J. West argues "Judged by its crop of statutes and statues, Chartism was a failure. Judged by its essential and generally overlooked purpose, Chartism was a success. It achieved not the Six points but a state of mind. ...read more.

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