Chartism on trial

Public Meeting, Carlisle, 1839 (HO 40/41)
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Why did some people become Chartists?

This session examines Chartism through the lens of prison interviews conducted by the Home Office in 1840-1841. The record series HO 20/10 details the lives and prison experiences of 73 arrested Chartists serving in 13 prisons across England and Wales. Information gathered on their occupation, income, age, marital status, family size, religion and education, as well as their treatment and conditions within prison, offer a fascinating insight into the lives of people participating the early phase of Chartist protest.

Students study these prison records closely, and work collaboratively in collecting and classifying the information, to discover the diverse range of people involved in the Chartist movement. Using their findings, they discuss whether it is possible to talk about a ‘typical’ Chartist, and reflect on the usefulness of the evidence to draw conclusions about who the Chartists were.

Those students visiting The National Archives have the opportunity to ‘rummage’ through other original documents, containing government correspondence on the movement and original posters advertising Chartist meetings.

This session is delivered as a workshop, videoconference, virtual classroom. Find out more about the types of session we offer.

Session options

This session is delivered as a:


at The National Archives

2 hours


in your classroom

1 hour

Virtual classroom

in your classroom

1 hour

Available: All year

Cost: Free to UK schools

Suitability: Key stage 5

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Contact us

All activities must be booked in advance.

Tel: +44 (0)20 8392 5365

Fax: +44 (0)20 8487 9202

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