Open University. What evidence is there in the extract above of the three explanations for Chartisms support that you learned about in Block2, Unit 2,

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What evidence is there in the extract above of the three explanations for Chartism’s support that you learned about in Block2, Unit 2, Making sense of history, and which, if any, is stressed most strongly by the speaker?

: In no more than 800 words, write an essay in response to the above question.

The extract ‘Great meeting at York for the Charter’ published in Northern Star, issued on 6 July 1839 is a primary source of information. The Northern Star newspaper was a great supporter of Chartism which indicates that it will show only the positive side of the Chartist movement. The newspaper was launched in 1837 by Feargus O’Connor, providing information about Chartist meetings and gatherings across the country. The extract is showing three explanations for Chartism public support; mainly for the reaction to economic conditions, a national political movement and an inclusive cultural community. This essay will examine all three explanations and highlight that the national political movement was emphasised most strongly by the speaker.

Economic circumstances were one of the main issues of Chartism. 1839 was a year of economic downturn which mainly affected the poor and working class and it often led to many riots and protests across the country. During times of economic hardship Chartist support was at its height (Rostow’s Graph of social tension, The Open University, 2013, Block2, pg. 36). Quotes from the speech: ‘destitution in horrid form’, ‘its insufficiency of food’ and ‘the toll of the death bell-over famished victim of monopoly’ highlights the appalling working and living conditions which caused death, starvation and often led to crime. In the quote: ‘to be remorselessly trampled upon by murderous faction, jobbers, and commercial bloodsucking vampires’ the speaker advocates the economic suffering and exploitation of factory workers by their middle class employers. By addressing all these facts especially in time of economic unrest, Chartism gained huge public support mainly in big towns and industrial areas where radical roots were well established with an effective political organization. Factory workers played a far more active role in Chartism as the agricultural workers in rural areas which explained that support in agricultural areas was weak almost non-existing (Briggs, The Open University Resource booklet 1, 2013, pg50).

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Chartism was an inclusive cultural community which gave voice to many people in society who were denied any opinion or influence. The quote from the speech: ‘Honourable gentlemen…..working class only’ highlights the division in the society and as the speaker pointed out ‘establish equality’ gives hope to the working class that by fighting  for the approval of the Charter, they will achieve a fairer society and  will be able take their own initiative. Eileen Yeo argued that the working class should be able to shape their own politics and future (E.Yeo, The Open University Resource booklet 1, 2013, pg. 52).


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