On 21 May 1838 an estimated 150,000 people assembled on Glasgow Green for a mass demonstration. There they witnessed the launch of the People’s Charter, a list of demands for political reform. The changes they called for included voting by secret ballot, equal-sized constituencies and, most importantly, that all men should have the vote.

The Chartists, as they came to be known, were the first national mass working-class movement. In the decade that followed, they collected six million signatures for their Petitions to Parliament: all were rejected, but their campaign had a significant and lasting impact.


Joan Allen Visiting Fellow in History at Newcastle University and Chair of the Society for the Study of Labour History

Emma Griffin Professor of Modern British History at the University of East Anglia and President of the Royal Historical Society


Robert Saunders Reader in Modern British History at Queen Mary, University of London.

The image above shows a Chartist mass meeting on Kennington Common in London in April 1848.