Professor Malcolm Chase delivers third All Party Group annual lecture

The lecture on 22 October was entitled ‘The People’s Charter of 1838:The Chartist Legacy to Parliamentary Democracy’

The lecture was held in the Speaker’s State Rooms by kind permission of Mr Speaker, The Rt Hon John Bercow MP and was attended by 15 MPs and Lords and more than 60 archivists, historians and other guests. 

Dr Hywel Francis, Chair of the All Party Group, introduced the lecture.

Professor Malcolm Chase is Professor of Social History at the University of Leeds. He has degrees from York and Sussex and is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society. His main research interest is the Labour movement and radical politics generally in eighteenth and nineteenth century Britain, with a particular interest in the formative years of trade unionism, and the Chartist movement.

peoples chartermalcolmchase249x166The high-profile lecture was one of a number of activities undertaken by the All Party Group during the year to commemorate the work of the Chartists. It is 175 years since the People’s Charter.

An Early Day Motion by Dr Hywel Francis commemorating the Chartists gained nearly 80 signatures.

A small display of Chartist material was mounted in the No Lobby in the Houses of Parliament in July and will move to the Members’ Library in November.  Among the material on display is the only known photograph of John Frost (prominent leader of the Welsh Chartists) and a copy of Byron’s poetry given to black Chartist John Cuffay by the movement as he was transported to Australia. With the display  on the route of the public tour at least a quarter of a million people have seen it.owen ashton hywel francis malcolm chase 249 x 166

The Speaker’s Advisory Committee on Works of Art, chaired by Frank Doran MP, agreed that a permanent display of Chartist material would be placed on the Upper Committee Corridor. (The All Party Group considered it a scandal that such an influential movement in our history, including the largest petition ever to have been delivered to parliament, had not been marked in the Houses of Parliament until now.)

Read more about Chartism in Parliament and see images from the permanent display at

A seminar on Chartist Archives was also held in the Houses of Parliament on 22 October. It was led by Professor Owen Ashton, Emeritus Professor of Modern British History at Staffordshire University. Read more about the Seminar here.

The Chartist movement called for six changes to Parliament:  a vote for every man over the age of 21; a secret ballot; no property qualification for members of Parliament; payment for MPs (so poor men could serve); constituencies of equal size; and annual elections for Parliament.  Five of the Charter’s six points became law by 1918. Annual parliaments were never seriously considered.

malcolm chase and tristram hunt 249 x 369A petition delivered to Parliament in 1842 carried over 3 million signature. It remains the largest ever petition to be delivered there.

Only once did Chartists ‘take up arms’. On 4 November 1839 50 Chartists were seriously wounded and 22 killed in a confrontation with troops in Newport. 

Active support for Chartism withered away during the 1850s; the last Chartist died in 1921 – a Michigan State Senator, Henry Chubb, who had been Secretary of Colchester’s Chartist branch before he emigrated.









Photographs show: Top Professor Malcolm Chase at Parliament in July 2015 - photo Simon O'Connor for ARA; above right Professor Owen Ashton, Dr Hywel Francis MP and Professor Malcolm Chase on 22 October; and above left Professor Chase and Tristram Hunt MP, Vice Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Archives and History. Photographs by Dan McNally for the ARA.