Rethinking a small square of cloth:A visual reinterpretation of the Peterloo Massacre Handkerchief of 1819

Activity: Talk or presentation typesOral presentation


This paper considers the form of a handkerchief as a record keeper of individual experience. The enquiry originated as part of a commission at Bolton Museum Archives in North West England to commemorate the people of Bolton who marched to St Peter’s Field in Manchester on 16 August 1819 to take part in a peaceful demonstration in support of parliamentary reform. Unprecedentedly cavalry charged into the large crowd which led to 18 people being killed and 400–700 battered and wounded. The event became reviled in Britain and took on the name of Peterloo Massacre. Through the use of procedures of archival research, the commission calls for a re-assessment of the legacy of Peterloo Massacre to be confronted. The handkerchief has become a means to do this. Looking back at the original handkerchief produced and sold following the Peterloo Massacre, I provide a reassessment of its commemorative capacity to engage in questions relating to the purpose of eye-witness testimony in conflict situations that continue to have relevance today.
Period16 Apr 202017 Apr 2020
Event title6th International Congress on Visual Culture
Event typeConference
Conference number6
LocationParis, FranceShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational