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Chartists Archives – Valahian Journal of Historical Studies


The Debates on the Rights of Man in Britain: From the Levellers to the Chartists (1640s-1840s)

Language: English
Subject(s): History
Page Range: 11-41
No. of Pages: 31
Keywords: , , , , , , , ,
Summary/Abstract: From the 1640s to the 1840s political thinkers and political activists discussed and struggled for three concepts of freedom: the right of the individual to be free from too much government oppression, the right to play an active role in politics to make the government responsible to the people, and the right to expect the state to help the poor to escape from economic oppression. These debates occurred throughout these two hundred years but this article discusses each in turn. The first struggle, to secure the individual’s possessions, freedom of religion and expression, and the right to resist tyranny by force, was advanced in theory and in practice by John Locke and radical Whigs in the seventeenth century and was the most successful campaign. The second campaign to make the government accountable to the people by giving all men and all women the right to elect the members of the legislature in the Westminster Parliament was advanced successfully in theory by the earlier nineteenth century, but it was not achieved in practice for more than a century after that. The campaign to free the poor from poverty and economic oppression was much debated in theory, especially during the early decades of the Industrial Revolution, but the utopian Socialists who advanced the most radical ideas did not really appreciate how to overcome the poverty and economic oppression of the working classes in a capitalist economy. It took a series of changes well into the later twentieth century before most British workers were lifted out of poverty.
Open access on CEEOL: NO

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