Sunday, 6 November 2011

Birmingham's contribution to Extending Democracy

Yesterday, my daughter and I travelled to Birmingham for one of the out-of-London events for Parliament Week. The Archives & Heritage team within Birmingham Central Library had organised a "Right to Vote Walk" around Birmingham. It was an excellent morning - full of some very interesting places.

Don Hazzard, a historian, gave a fascinating tour of places associated with the campaigns for votes. The Chartists were very active in Birmingham, as were the Suffragettes. We learned about the incredible Thomas Attwood, a local man who was a far-sighted economist and political reformer - and later MP for Birmingham. He was arguing after the Government slashed spending post-the Napoleonic Wars - that such a policy was short-sighted and would lead to greater economic distress. He urged spending to promote a virtuous circle - creating wealth rather than destroying it. As a political reformer he sought the extension of the franchise (sad that in both the UK and the USA there are today, those trying to recreate barriers to voting). The whole morning was a reminder of the great reforming tradition in England (British History isn't just Kings, Military battles and a sanitised version of progress towards Democracy - people had to fight for the freedoms we enjoy today). We also heard about John Bright - another great reformer. He too served as a Birmingham MP.

The picture accompanying this post is of a plaque which is part of a walk around the city's Jewellery Quarter (for more information on this go to - http://bobmiles.bulldoghome.com/pages/bobmiles_bulldoghome_com/index.htm

There is a slight historical inaccuracy - the Chartists actually were later than this incredible mass meeting (just look at the numbers!) - but, the same individuals were involved.

Thanks again to Don Hazzard and Nikki Thorpe from the Archive section of the Central Library for an excellent tour.