Labour History Review

Hearts and Minds: The Politics of Everyday Life and Chartism, 1832–1840

Labour History Review (2009), 74, (1), 27–43.


In the 1830s, radical and later Chartist leaders and activists tried to link democratic reform to everyday concerns about food and clothing, family and marriage, and sexuality and death. Their critique of Malthusianism and the social and economic effects of 'class legislation', like the Anatomy Act and the New Poor Law, allowed them to engage hearts and emotions and to move beyond high-minded appeals to natural rights and the constitution. At the same time, however, Chartist leaders and activists turned to these issues, and the powerful feelings that they elicited, to make an appeal on an intellectual level as well. They used these issues to stimulate critical thought and to raise questions in the minds of working men and women about the effects of an unrepresentative political system on their everyday lives. These appeals to hearts and minds complemented and re-enforced each other and together shaped the emergence of Chartism as a mass movement.

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Author details

Hall, Robert