The imagined community of Chartism

Rights statement
Awarding institution
  • University of Strathclyde
Date of award
  • 2023
Thesis identifier
  • T16525
Person Identifier (Local)
  • 201674173
Qualification Level
Qualification Name
Department, School or Faculty
  • In 1838, the London Working Men’s Association published the People’s Charter, based upon six fundamental points that would reform the electoral system and, by doing so, would improve the desperate, poverty stricken conditions of the working-class. The campaign quickly became known as Chartism and would formally exist for twenty years. During its lifetime, Chartism failed to achieve any of these six basic aims, an outcome that has led to much of the historical assessment of the movement focusing upon the causes of this ‘failure’, with a primary contributing factor being the internal disagreements and dissensions that lead to a perceived lack of unity. This thesis does not attempt to dismiss the internal disputes that affected the movement, and recognises the impact they had upon its leadership and membership. However, it challenges the argument of disunity by asserting that twenty years of active campaigning that continued the struggle for electoral reform begun in the previous century and which laid the foundation for those reformers who came after it, would not have been possible within a fractured and discordant movement incapable of united action. This thesis proposes that to recognise this strength of purpose, we should consider Chartism as more than a movement, that it was a community of common beliefs, common practice, shared ambitions and shared values, but also that, as it was a community that encompassed nearly all parts of Britain, it has to be considered as imagined. The concept of the imagined community was first proposed by Benedict Anderson in his analysis of the conditions that developed nations of 'horizontal comradeship' between peoples who have never met each other, and it is Anderson’s work that provides the fundamental concept upon which the arguments in this thesis are based.
Advisor / supervisor
  • Finlay, Richard J.
Resource Type