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Commemorating PeterlooViolence, Resilience, and Claim-making during the Romantic Era$
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Michael Demson and Regina Hewitt

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9781474428569

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: January 2020

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9781474428569.001.0001

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(p.1) Introduction
Commemorating Peterloo

Michael Demson

Regina Hewitt

Edinburgh University Press

This Introduction provides an overview of the events that came to be known as the 'Peterloo Massacre' and of assessments that try to account for the violent reaction it received. Drawing on theories by Chandler, Tilly, Butler, Žižek and Nixon, it categorizes the attitudes toward physical force and toward the claims of 'the people' on government evident in the historical record into narratives of 'diminishing' and 'dispersing' violence. Looking at how these narratives were developed in Romantic-era literature, it offers a new interpretation of the conflict in St Peter's Field as indicative of a change in attitudes toward violence as a 'normal' occurrence. It finds that a decreasing pattern of direct confrontation facilitated the Parliamentary Reform that Peterloo protesters sought while a pattern of subtle repression limited the extent to which popular claim-making would be heard.

Keywords:   political identity, Parliamentary Reform, Violence, Claim-making, Peterloo, Chandler, James, Tilly, Charles, Butler, Judith, Nixon, Rob, Žižek, Slavoj

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