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The Influence of Chartism

The first organised worker’s movement commenced in Britain around 1824 and with it came the term Socialism which originated in the 1830’s.  Extensive social upheaval was experienced in the 1830’s when Chartism arose in Britain.

Chartism was a working class movement that championed a democratic constitution and political and social reform for the non-propertied class. Workers at that time did not have the right to vote in parliamentary elections and didn’t have any industrial or human rights. Chartism took its name from the People’s Charter of 1838 which demanded the following six main objectives:

•“Universal” suffrage for  working males over the age of 21 (excluding  female workers)

•Equal size electoral districts

•Voting by secret ballot

•An end to the need for a property qualification for members of parliament

•Payment of members of Parliament

•Annual elections for Parliament

Widespread crop failures caused considerable unrest in Europe. The Potato Blight in Ireland of 1846-50 was the most severe, but it also had a damaging effect in the Scottish highlands, Prussia, Belgium and France. This misery mobilized mass movements in opposition to governments with demands for decent workers’ industrial rights and liberties in society generally, and caused governments across the continent to collapse. It was the powerful precursor of industrial unionism.


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