Many of the leading Chartists wrote their own, frequently self-justifying autobiographies. Though these often contain valuable information, their analysis of events is far from objective and, in some cases decidedly misleading. G. D. H. Cole Chartist Portraits, Macmillan, 1940 marks the point from which Chartist biographies proliferated.
William Lovett Life and Struggles of William Lovett, 1876 is Lovett’s autobiography. The 1967 edition prefaced by R.H. Tawney is an edited version. On Lovett see Joyce M. Bellamy and John Saville (eds.) Dictionary of Labour History, volume vi, London, 1982, pages 165-179, Joseph O. Baylen and Norbert J. Grossman (eds.) Biographical Dictionary of Modern British Radicals since 1770, volume 2 1830-1870, Harvester Press, Brighton, 1984 and David Large ‘William Lovett’ in Patricia Hollis (ed.) Pressure from Without in Early Victorian England, Edward Arnold, 1974, pages 105-130. Joel Wiener William Lovett, Manchester University Press, 1989 is the best modern biography. O’Connor died in 1855 before he could write his own account of events. Contemporaries from Lovett onwards and historians from the first study by Gammage have been overwhelmingly hostile to O’Connor’s achievement. James Epstein The Lion of Freedom: Feargus O’Connor and the Chartist Movement 1832-1842, Croom Helm, 1982 sought to redress the balance.
Thomas Cooper The Life of Thomas Cooper, 1872, reprinted with an introduction by John Saville, Leicester University Press, 1971 is a major autobiography by a key player in 1842. R. J. Conklin Thomas Cooper, the Chartist (1805-1892), Manila, 1935 is currently the only biography. Stephen Roberts’ work on Cooper is the most recent and accurate: ‘Thomas Cooper in Leicester 1840-1843’, Transactions of the Leicestershire Archaeological and Historical Society, volume 61, (1987), pages 62-76, ‘Thomas Cooper: Radical and Poet, c.1830-1860’, Bulletin of the Society for the Study of Labour History, volume 53 (1), (1988), ‘The Later Radical Career of Thomas Cooper, c.1845-1855’, Transactions of the Leicestershire Archaeological and Historical Society, volume 64, (1990), pages 62-72 and ‘Thomas Cooper: A Victorian Working Class Writer’, Our History Journal, volume 16, (1990).
Francis Place long in need of a modern biography since that by Graham Wallas was published in its fourth edition in 1925 now, not altogether successfully has Dudley Miles Francis Place 1771-1854: The life of a remarkable radical, Harvester, 1988. Alfred Plummer Bronterre: A Political Biography of Bronterre O’ Brien 1804-1864, London, 1971 is the standard work on this enigmatic figure. Joseph O. Baylen and Norbert J. Grossman (eds.) Biographical Dictionary of Modern British Radicals since 1770, Brighton, volume 2 1830-1870, 1984 is a useful shorter study. A.R. Schoyen The Chartist Challenge: a Portrait of George Julian Harney, London, 1958 remains the best biography. Ambrose G. Barker Henry Hetherington 1792-1849, London, 1938 remains the only modern biography. Joseph O. Baylen and Norbert J. Grossman (eds.) Biographical Dictionary of Modern British Radicals since 1770 provides a shorter, more recent alternative.
Michael S. Edwards Purge This Realm. A Life of Joseph Rayner Stephens, London, 1994, pages 38-106 deals with Stephens ‘Chartist years’. Biographies of Cleave and Benbow can be found in J. Bellamy and J. Saville (eds.) Dictionary of Labour History, volume vi, London, 1982. Iowerth Prothero ‘William Benbow and the Concept of the “General Strike”’, Past and Present, volume 63, (1974), pages 132-171 is an invaluable study of Benbow’s ideas. William Dorling Henry Vincent: A Biographical Sketch, London 1879 remains the only detailed study of his life. Baylen and Grossman (eds.) Biographical Dictionary of Modern British Radicals since 1770 contain a short study. Brian Harrison and Patricia Hollis (eds.) Robert Lowery Radical and Chartist, London, 1979 introduce an annotated selection from Lowery’s writings. Stephen Roberts Radical Politicians and Poets in Early Victorian Britain, Lampeter, 1993 provides an excellent study of Robert Peddie, a leading figure in the Bradford rising. David Williams John Frost: A Study in Chartism, Cardiff, 1939, reprinted New York, 1969 is a key biography from a historiographical perspective. J.E. Lloyd and R.T. Jenkins (eds.) The Dictionary of Welsh Biography Down in 1940, Cardiff, 1959 has short biographies of the leading figures in the Newport rising including John Frost and Zephaniah Williams. John Saville Ernest Jones: Chartist, London, 1952, Miles Taylor Ernest Jones, Oxford University Press, 2003 and Owen R Ashton W. E. Adams: Chartist, Radical and Journalist, Bewick Press, 1991 are the most valuable biographies of later Chartists. Raymond Challinor A Radical Lawyer in Victorian England: W. P. Roberts and the struggle for workers’ rights, I. B. Tauris, 1990 provides an interesting middle class perspective. Paul Pickering and Owen Ashton Friends of the People: Uneasy Radicals in the Age of the Chartists, Merlin Press, 2002 contains biographies of six radical leaders including Peter McDouall and Henry Solly.
The most extensive general discussion of the question ‘who were the Chartists?’ is to be found in Dorothy Thompson The Chartists: Popular Politics in the Industrial Revolution, Aldershot, 1984, pages 91-236. Christopher Godfrey Chartist Lives: The Anatomy of a Working-Class Movement, New York, 1987 is a more detailed study.
Kathryn Gleadle and Sarah Richardson (eds.) Women in British Politics 1760-1860: The Power of the Petticoat, Macmillan, 2000 places protest by women in a broader context. Helen Rogers Women and the People: Authority, Authorship and the Radical Tradition in Nineteenth-Century England, Ashgate, 2000 pages 80-123 is an excellent study of the role of women within the Chartist movement and is part of an extremely important study placing women within the radical tradition. Anna Clark The Struggle for the Breeches: Gender and the Making of the British Working Class, University of California Press, 1995 seeks to place the struggle of working class women within the broader struggles of the working class. On women and Chartism, there are two specific studies. David Jones ‘Women and Chartism’, History, volume 68, (1983), pages 1-21 is less critical. Jutta Schwarzkopf Women in the Chartist Movement, London, 1991 is a more detailed, but not entirely satisfactory, study.