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Jonathan Schofield at the People's History Museum

Free Trade, Peterloo and Friedrich Engels: big Manc moments with a laugh or two included

Written by . Published on May 16th 2011.

Jonathan Schofield at the People's History Museum

Free Trade - Manchester moves to the forefront of the national stage

Saturday 21 May 2011 3pm-4.30pm

"We were not born with saddles on our backs nor were the gentry born with spurs."

This line was spoken by John Bright in the Free Trade Hall, Manchester, during celebrations for the repeal of the Corn Laws. Bright was ridiculing the landed classes. He was making it plain that the middle classes were rising, that the old-style aristocratic patronage of Britain’s governing elite, was under attack from the commercial wealth of the industrial north and its leaders.

And Manchester was the key.

Free Trade2.jpgThe city was the focus for the cotton industry which in the 1840s accounted for almost 50% of UK exports. That it should be beholden to landed gentry who contributed little to the public purse was a cause of anger.

This talk explains how the battle against the Corn Laws developed into a political philosophy, the Manchester School – the only political and economic philosophy named after a UK city.

The aim of this school was Free Trade, but the latter’s pursuit has become one of the most misunderstood in history, distorted by Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan’s ‘neo-liberalism’ of the 1980s.

With humour, verve and passion the talk will describe how the Manchester School, achieved ‘a far freer internal market in Europe than the Eurocrats in Brussels have achieved today’. 

And far from being a purely selfish ploy to prevent government regulation, the aim of people such as Richard Cobden, was ‘that the motive for gigantic armies and great navies will die away’.

Booking details below.

Peterloo discussed – Manchester’s day of destiny

Tues 16 August 2011 6.30pm-8pm

‘Rise like lions after slumber, in unvanquishable number.’

So wrote Percy Bysshe Shelley after the ‘massacre in Manchester’ in 1819.

Peterloo.pngSchofield will be taking a serious and yet entertaining look at a day which defines British democracy.

The talk will discuss the circumstances and injustices which led up to the day. How the massacre developed, the people involved, and the role of cheese.  Yep cheese.

From John Edward Prince, the first editor of the Guardian, via the radical weaver Samuel Bamford to the odious Joseph Nadin and a young member of the gentry, Hugh Hornby Birley; personalties and events will be analysed to attempt a true picture of what happened on 16 August 1816.

Equally importantly the talk will take a look at the consequences of Peterloo. What did it mean for the road to democracy in Britain? Was it always more of a symbol than a start of real for change?

Booking details below.

Friedrich Engels and the city – Manchester, a lesson to history

Saturday 25 November 2011 3pm-4.30pm

‘I played second fiddle (to Karl Marx) as a virtuoso’

Friedrich Engels was the closest friend of Karl Marx and one of the most colourful characters to ever settle in Manchester.

Living here on and off for 22 years, this German wrote with wit, passion and insight about the city which became his adopted home.

Peterloo.pngHe was author of the Condition of the Working Classes in England, largely based on his Mancunian experiences, and part-author of the Communist Manifesto, much of which was written in the city.

This talk will celebrate the man, his ideas and describe the Manchester he knew.  It will explain the politics and background behind the Communist Manifesto but also describe the life of Engels.

This was man who ‘wanted to seize life with both hands’; a magnetic character who charmed  - or wore down - almost all of those he met. An important member of the ex-patriot German community, he was prolifically well-read, a natural linguist, and never anything but a man of contradictions, he was a keen fox-hunter too.

His ‘confessions’ to one of  Marx’s daughters are one of the nineteenth century’s funniest documents.

This talk will help you understand Engels’ place in Manchester’s and world history.  

Booking details below.


Booking is required for all the talks. £10 (£7 concessions). Please contact:  People’s History Museum Left Bank, Spinningfields Manchester M3 3ER. 0161 838 9190. Or email info@phm.org.uk

For details of more Jonathan Schofield talks and tours click here

Follow Jonathan Schofield on Twitter on @JonathSchofield

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