With the British historical drama Peterloo (Amazon, 11.9), director Mike Leigh is veering into the kind of militant political material previously owned by Ken Loach (Land and Freedom, Bread and Roses, The Wind that Shakes the Barley, Jimmy’s Hall). It also feels like an early 19th Century version of Paul Greengrass‘s brilliant Bloody Sunday (’02).
Leigh is recreating the notorious Peterloo Massacre of 1819, in which government troops killed roughly 15 demonstrators and injured hundreds more. 60,000 citizens from Manchester and surrounding towns had assembled in St. Peter’s Field to demand Parliamentary reform and an expansion of voting rights, and local government officials freaked.
The massacre happened a good 20 years before the intensifying of the Industrial Revolution, 26 years before the birth of Eugene Debs, 45 years before the first stirrings of the British Labour movement, and 48 years before the publication of Karl Marx‘s “Das Kapital.”