Protesting Peterloo: The ‘Fanciful’ and the ‘Domestic’, Helen Leach
This essay will explore two artefacts produced in response to the Peterloo Massacre in 1819; Percy Bysshe Shelley’s The Masque of Anarchy and John Slack’s engraving of The Events at St Peter’s Fields, reproduced
on a handkerchief. The items will be examined to find a synthesis between them which illustrates the extent to which Reformist protest was curtailed and suppressed by the restrictive legislation of the early decades of the nineteenth century. The manner in which the artefacts collectively demonstrate the significance of class and social status, even within the Reformist movement, will then be discussed. It will reflect on the impact that illiteracy had on works of protest for the working classes, considering the manner in which literary works excluded huge numbers and the extent to which it predicated a need for visual, domestic items of protest as opposed to more fanciful, esoteric, literary works.