Huddersfield has a reputation as a radical place in the past … and now a lecture in the town will look at how novels can have an impact on how we view historical events.

The 2024 annual Luddite Memorial Lecture in the town on April 29 will be given by graphic artist Paul Fitzgerald and historian Professor Robert Poole. In 2019 Paul and Robert produced the book Peterloo: Witnesses to a Massacre which used strictly factual verbatim narrative to tell the story of the Peterloo massacre as a graphic history.

Actor Maxine Peake described the book as ‘amazing artwork’ which was a ‘powerful testimony to the 1819 massacre’ while historian and broadcaster Michael Wood described it as ‘a must-read.’

The massacre was the brutal dispersal by cavalry of an anti-poverty protest held on St Peter’s Fields in Manchester on August 16, 1819, attended by around 60,000 people.

An estimated 18 people, including four women and a child, died from sabre cuts and trampling while nearly 700 men, women and children were badly hurt, all in the name of liberty and freedom from poverty.

The massacre happened during a period of immense political tension and mass protests. Fewer than 2% of the population had the vote, and hunger was rife with the disastrous corn laws making bread unaffordable.

Fascinated by the question of historical accuracy when such narratives are portrayed in visual and dramatic forms, Paul and Robert will discuss how to do history in public and with pictures.

The free lecture is on Monday, April 29, at the Oastler building at the University of Huddersfield, starting at 7.30pm.

Paul and Robert say: “All history involves selecting material and offering narratives, but how far can we go without distorting the past? What are the particular issues surrounding visual history and, especially, graphic novels?

“What can they achieve that other mediums can’t? Where do we draw the line between advocacy and propaganda? Should we ever sanitise our historical heroes? Should creators be allowed to make things up to drive a more engaging drama?’

Huddersfield Local History Society chair Cyril Pearce said: “This year’s Luddite Memorial Lecture is going to look very different. It will be exploring how we might marry the art of the graphic novel with the rigours of historical scholarship. To do that we couldn’t hope for better guides. It promises to be quite an occasion.”

Paul Fitzgerald is a professional political cartoonist, prop builder and graphic novelist. He is founder and chair of the Peterloo Memorial Campaign.

Robert Poole, Professor Emeritus of History at the University of Central Lancashire, was the historical consultant to the Peterloo bicentenary programme in 2019.

To find out more about the Peterloo Memorial Campaign and about the Massacre itself go to

Written by ANDY HIRST who runs his own Yorkshire freelance journalism agency AH! PR ( specialising in press releases, blogging, website content and copywriting.