On a perfect summers day in August 1819 - as a faint breeze cooled the heat of the noonday sun and gently lifted the flags to display their mottoes and emblems - a huge crowd, mainly of working people, gathered on St Peters Field in Manchester to discuss parliamentary reform under the chairmanship of Henry Hunt Esq, a leading advocate of universal suffrage. Conspicuously present at the meeting were women, the breeze dishevelling their long hair as they enthusiastically doffed their hats to cheer. Before the proceedings could begin, however, the crowd was savagely dispersed, the work of cavalrymen charging with drawn and recently sharpened sabres, backed up by the truncheons of the constabulary and the bayonets of the infantry. The outcome was the injury of 654 persons, including the deaths of at least 17, and the seizure and destruction of nearly all the reformers flags and caps. Among the casualties women figured prominently, most of them wounded by sabres, bayonets, truncheons and horses hooves, rather than simply injured in the crush of the crowd.
Eight surviving casualty lists offer detailed information about the victims and their attackers, and allow the first truly objective assessment of the days events. In this important new study, Professor Michael Bush analyses these lists in order to determine the true scale and nature of the atrocity, concluding that the epithet massacre is fully justified. The lists also provide fascinating personal information about the reformers, including the many women who took part and who suffered disproportionately at the hands of the military and police. Michael Bush provides detailed listings of every known casualty - a most useful tool for genealogists as well as local historians - and draws highly significant new conclusions that will resonate loudly with all those interested in Britains slow and painful march towards political democracy.
Michael Bush was educated at Alderman Newton's Boys' School Leicester where an interest in history was first imparted by H.E. Howard. Proceeding to Christ's College, Cambridge on a major scholarship, he was awarded a BA in 1959 and a PhD in 1965. His undergraduate studies were directed by J.H.Plumb; his postgraduate studies were supervised by G.R.Elton. Prominent in his research has been an interest in resistance to government authority in the north of England, leading to several publications on the Tudor north, especially relating to the Pilgrimage of Grace of 1536, and on Manchester radicalism in the early nineteenth century. From 1962 Michael Bush taught modern history at Manchester University, giving up the post of Reader in 1994 to devote himself wholly to writing and research. In October 1999 he became Research Professor in Modern History at Manchester Metropolitan University. Since then he has worked for the Manchester Centre for Regional History located at that university. His current research is based on the ideas and following of the atheist and republican Richard Carlile.