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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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Peterloo, Ambivalence and Commemorative Culture

Peterloo, Ambivalence and Commemorative Culture

(p.31) Chapter 1 Peterloo, Ambivalence and Commemorative Culture
Commemorating Peterloo

Stephen C. Behrendt

Edinburgh University Press

This chapter demonstrates that material culture responses to Peterloo (prints, textiles, ceramics, metalwork) were far more ambivalent about the consequences for civil and institutional reform than were most conventional print responses, which often advocated violent retaliation. Close examination of several examples reveals deep pessimism about the relative ineffectiveness of individual or even collective action and resistance to the superior and often deadly forces of physical, social, legal and institutional oppression wielded against even peaceful reformers. Caricature prints by Marks, Cruikshank and others, like other commemorative objects produced after Peterloo, emphasize the grotesquely disproportionate violence inflicted on orderly reformist citizens and leaders. These artifacts collectively imply that present active resistance, whether militant or non-violent, is largely futile and that the only genuinely tenable option lies in resigned but hopeful optimism about the prospect of a more enlightened future redress of social and political oppression.

Keywords:   Material culture, ambivalence, reform, violence, commodity, caricature, Marks, John Lewis, Cruikshank, George, Peterloo

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