The making of a middle class liberalism in Manchester, c.1815-32 : a study of politics and the press
This thesis attempts to make a useful contribution to our picture of the development of early nineteenth-century provincial liberalism. It investigates various political, social and economic aspects of liberalism in Manchester and draws attention to the ideas and activities of a small and identifiable group of respectable reformers who were active in the town in the first half of the nineteenth century and who had a significant impact on local affairs. Much has been written about Victorian Manchester and about Manchester politics in the era of Chartism, the Anti-Corn Law League and the so-called 'Manchester School'. This thesis seeks to elucidate and explain some of the less explored developments which were antecedent to and shaped these later events and movements. The main avenue of inquiry is provided by the public careers of a 'small but determined band' of reformers (as they were called by one of their number, Richard Potter), men who involved themselves in numerous political campaigns and who also pioneered a new kind of political journalism in the provinces. Archibald Prentice and John Edward Taylor in particular made the newspaper a vital organ in the formation and direction of liberal opinion. These men represented prominent features of Mancunian liberalism in the years before parliamentary reform and incorporation, and the main concern of the thesis is to illustrate these features by investigating the principles and campaigns of this reformist vanguard. Attention is paid to the band's political and theological precepts and motivations, to the examples and encouragement provided by earlier Manchester reformers, to the key role of the local reformist press in the work of enlightenment and mobilisation, to the liberals' battles with Manchester's mainly Tory-Anglican ruling party on certain local government issues, to the band's involvement in campaigns and discussions relating to important social questions such as education, health and welfare, poverty and labour relations, to the band's participation in commercial campaigns and the movement against the corn laws, and to their views and activities on the central question of parliamentary reform. The most important primary sources for this study are to be found in Manchester. The newspapers are invaluable; there are also substantial collections of contemporary pamphlets and miscellaneous ephemera which provide essential information as well as the material necessary for an appreciation of the wider Manchester setting. Members of the band have left certain materials - correspondence, scrapbooks, lectures, books and pamphlets, reminiscences and personal records - which are of importance when used alongside their letters, articles and editorials in the local newspapers.