The emphasis on class, industrial structure and workplace relations proffered by Foster and others as an explanation of the nature and development of popular politics in this period is rejected. Continuities in personnel, values, motivation, policies and strategies suggest that militant grass-roots liberalism of the 1850s, and the culture of self-improvement which pervaded it, were essentially continuations of a radical platform of the 1830s which was preserved, even enhanced, through the Chartist period. Radicals' emphasis on retrenchment, tax reform, democratic accountability and local self-government represented a commitment to a democratic, capitalist environment capable of sustaining material progress and promoting moral and spiritual self-improvement and individual responsibility. They sought, rather than rejected, cooperation with more moderate reformers, seeing no contradiction in combining support for Chartism with more limited campaigns to repeal the corn law or to reform local government. Radicals, however, were also divided amongst themselves. This was particularly evident in Oldham with Cobbettism drawing support from an extensive semi-rural hinterland and a more aggressive petit bourgeois artisan, nonconformist radicalism, associated with respectability and moral reform, based in the town itself. Cobbettism was progressively marginalized from the mid-1830s, however, drifting, for a variety of reasons, into the tory camp. For urban radicals, the liberalism of the 1850s represented a logical extension of their campaign, not a betrayal.