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Launched today: new graphic novel for schools brings Peterloo to life

Marking the bicentenary year of the Peterloo Massacre, The Age of Revolution national educational project has launched a new graphic novel, freely available for use in schools.

Peterloo: Imagine a World, a collaboration with artist ‘Polyp’ and the University of Kent in consultation with the Historical Association, brings to life a crucial period of history that is often passed over in schools.

The story, which adapts a full-length original academic work1, was co-written by historian Ben Marsh and Polyp, looks through the eyes and experiences of children by following a fictional family on their journey to take part in the march. The graphic novel:

- Offers an accessible, fresh resource to aid with teaching about the bloody event and its impact on the nation and its push for democracy
- Helps teachers demonstrate how Peterloo is relevant to the politics of the present day and other periods and topics pupils may have studied – including war, slavery, industrialisation, citizenship, and gender
- Draws on the direct testimony of the time and features additional source snippets, a glossary, a contemporary cartoon for comparison and a series of questions to prompt student reflection and engagement
- Touches on the wider campaigns for rights and liberties in the Age of Revolution (1775-1848)
- Is freely available and can be read online, downloaded to print or excerpt, or ordered in hard copy, all through the Age of Revolution website:

Ideas and suggestions for teachers on how to deploy the graphic novel in their classrooms are also available on The Age of Revolution website, as well as versions of the story with the text removed that will allow students themselves to take ownership of imagining the world, and give voice to the actors of the past.

Peterloo: Imagine a World is part of a wave of cultural activity aiming to preserve the memory of the historical event, including the notable Mike Leigh film, which hit screens in late 2018.

Peterloo was a day of protest which descended into a notorious massacre on 16 August 1819, as soldiers charged into an unarmed crowd. Around 60,000 people from Manchester and its surrounding regions assembled to campaign for greater parliamentary representation and political rights. But in the aftermath of the Napoleonic Wars, authorities were scared by the prospect of revolution and allowed a disaster to occur that would rank among the iconic moments in the history of British radicalism.

Victoria Nielson, CEO for Waterloo200 says: “By making an important part of our collective history engaging to children while retaining academic rigour and accuracy, this new graphic novel offers teachers the best of both worlds. We hope that the resource helps to inspire a great deal of creative teaching and learning about Peterloo, keeping this story of radicalism and revolt alive for a new generation in animated form.

“After receiving nationwide school orders for the first print run, we have now undertaken a second print run and advise that schools order as early as possible to avoid disappointment.”

Dr Ben Marsh, senior lecturer in history at University of Kent, added: “The continued relevance of the Peterloo Massacre cannot be overstated. We are surrounded right now by questions about the health of our democracy, our civil liberties and political institutions. And two hundred years ago, Peterloo was at the heart of a national conversation about representation, rights, and the role of law – its victims were ordinary people, including children. Working to tell this story via a new medium, in a way that brings it home to young people, offers a chance to open up vital questions about how we view our history, politics, and protest movements.”

The graphic novel is just one part of The Age of Revolution project, which aims to broaden and deepen engagement in the subject of Waterloo and the period of revolution in Europe between 1775 and 1848, working actively with more than 2,000 UK schools. The project provides bespoke educational materials, multimedia technology and educational and cultural partnerships for children at all Key Stages.

Notes to editors
1 The graphic novel is adapted from the full length original work co-authored by Robert Poole and Eva Schlunke, Peterloo: Witnesses to a Massacre (New Internationalist Press, 2019)

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Contact details
Dan Thompson, Third City PR // 0203 657 9776