Gladstone and the London May Day Demonstrators, 1890


By Chris Wrigley, published 10th August 2010

One hundred and twenty years ago the advent of the first red May Days caused major concern across Europe. To general surprise, in 1890 and the next few years some of the largest rallies occurred in London. In Britain the main demonstration on the nearest Sunday to May Day passed off without incident and confirmed the Liberal politicians and Liberal press in satisfaction with British liberty and democracy (albeit not universal even for men until 1918). The mass May Day demonstrations in London and elsewhere in Britain in the early 1890s and the display of confidence in British institutions that they elicited has escaped the attention of most historians, as has William Ewart Gladstone's interest in the attitudes of the predominantly working class demonstrators.

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