British History: 1815-65

British History AQA 1815-65

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Problems in 1815 (1)

Economic Depression

  • Br. economy position eroded by war --> had over specialised in war goods during war = trade disrupted= rising prices/falling wages
  • Move to capitalist way of farming= rural depopulation
  • Industrialisation= pop. unrest (& unemployment)
  • 1815- National debt= £861 mil. (owed £57 mil. by allies!)
  • Income tax produced 30% of gov. revenue

International prestige

  • USA= angry--> Br. intercepted US ships heading for EU
  • US soldiers undermined Br. war effort
  • USA wanted to break Br. control over Caribbean, Canada etc.
  • Went against Br. fishermen, Tobacco & Sugar traders in these places
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Problems in 1815 (2)

Political Problems

  • Needed confidence & Goodwill of Prince Regent (PR) --> majority of MPs not committed to one party to govern country
  • PR could not be relied upon to support ministers
  • Liverpool & 8 others = members of House of Lords
  • Party Organisations= not tight- lacked patronage

Post Napoleon Conditions

  • Transition- wartime to peacetime economy= mini boom then recession
  • Revival of radicalism & Extra Parliamentary Protest
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Liverpool's reaction to Problems:

Habeas Corpus Suspension, 1817

  • Could hold people without trial

The Six Acts, 1819

  • Training Prevention Act= Must be in army to train in weapons usage
  • Seizure of Arms Act= magistrates could enter houses to look for weapons
  • Seditious Meetings Act= No more than 50 people could meet to riot etc. (like Peterloo 1819)
  • Misdemeanours Act- no reasons needed to arrest & fast track through trial
  • Blasphemous & Seditious Libel Act= illegal to bad-mout Gov.
  • Newspapers & Stamp duties Act= Newspapers must be stamped to ensure no bad-mouthing of Gov.= made more expensive to buy


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Threats & Gov. Reaction: 1815-20: LUDDITES

Luddism 1812-15

  • What? = Armed protestors - broke into factories, broke machinery
                  Act against Industrialisation/Mechanisation
  • Why? = Wanted trade union objectives
                 'Quasi-Revolutionary Movement' -Thompson
                  Historians agree economic distress= root cause
  • Gov.? = 1812- 12,000 troops sent to affected areas = no impact
                  (had already stopped)
                  Used spies to find out main culprits
                  Feb. 1812: Made 'Machine-breaking' a capital offence
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Threats & Gov. Reaction: 1815-20: SPA FIELDS/ BLAN

Spa Field Riots, 1816-21

  • What? = 3 Meetings November/Decmber 1816 (Organised by Spenceans) 
                  Henry Hunt spoke of 'Utopia' 
                  Dr. Watson told crowd to "capture parliament"
                  Parliament panicked
                  Prince Regent's Carriage= stoned
  • Gov.? = Used Spies
                  Passed legislation to prevent reoccurence

March of the Blanketeers, 1817

  • What?= March from Manchester to London 
  • Why? = Wanted to give PR a petition to relieve distress in North textile
                  Wanted an end to Habeas Corpus suspension
  • Gov.? = Local magistrates declared it seditious--> dispersed it
                  Set up 'Manchester and Salford Yeomanry'
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Threats & Gov. Reaction: 1815-20: PENTRICH URPRISI


Pentrich Uprising, 1817

  • What? = Some northern working class wanted to march to London to 'seize' it
                  2 Minor uprisings occured (Huddersfield and Pentrich)
                  Attacked factories en route
  • Why? = To protest against the terrible working isolation in the North due to
                  French wars
  • Gov.? = 'Oliver the Spy' warned authorities= became well-prepared
                  1st uprising = stopped by a small number of troops
                  2nd uprising = Leaders arrested & charged with high treason
                  = 3 executed, 30 transported (Australia)
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Threats & Gov. Reaction: 1815-20: PETERLOO & CATO

Peterloo Massacre, 1819

  • What? = Post-Habeas Corpus restoration- Henry Hunt continued to appeal 
                  for parliamentary reform--> made aggresive speech
                  Hunt to make 2nd speech--> local magistrates= nervous about
                  the consequences
                  50-60,000 gathered to listen
  • Gov.? = Magistrates sent in yeomanry to arrest Hunt- But difficult to reach
                  Sent in regular forces to rescue yeomanry armed with sabres
                  Crowd Tried to protect Orators- All panic= 11 killed, 300-400 injured

Cato Conspiracy, 1820

  • What? = Plans to assassinate Liverpool's Cabinet = the most revolutionary
    action of the period
  • Why? = Wanted to paralyse decision-making body in Capital & then trigger
    uprisings around Britain.
  • Gov.? = Spy 'George Edwards' Informed Gov. = Leaders arrested/executed
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Cabinet Reform, 1822


Cabinet Reform, 1822- a turning point?

  • Traditional view= 1st 10 years of Liverpool's premiership was reactionary &
                                 last 5 years= Liberal-Toryism
  • Still some continuity in cabinet post-1822
  • Impression of change= illusionary --> All had served in Liverpool's Cabinet
  • All had supported the Gov. through its reactionary years
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Liberal-Tory Reforms, 1822-29 (1)

Navigation Acts Relaxation, 1823 (Huskisson)

  • All goods entering Br. had to be by Br. ships
    = more work for Br. people but less foreign trade

Reciprocity Treaties (Huskisson)

  • EU states agreed to reduce duties on each others goods
    = cheaper goods for civilians but difficult for Br. traders to profit

Relaxation of Trade Restrictions (Huskisson)

  • Br. Colonies could trade with all countries but Br.
  • Br. lowered duties on goods to keep colonies trading
    = colonies had more freedom, Br. made more money but colonies had little choice because Br. was cheapest
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Liberal-Tory Reforms, 1822-29 (2)

Reduction of Import Duties (Robinson)

  • Taxed no silk, wool, coffee & iron
  • Reduced in return for other countries doing the same
    = Trade up, raw materials cheaper for public

Repeal of Combination Act, 1824

  • Had Been illegal for workers to combine to improve working conditions or press for higher wages--> banned trade unions & strike action
  • 1824= Trade Unions/strikes= no longer liable to prosecution

Amending Act, 1825

  • Trade Unions still legal but illegal for them to use any form of force/participation in strikes
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Liberal-Tory Reforms, 1822-29 (3)

Gaols Act, 1823 (Peel)

  • Gaolers paid and inmates received basic education
    = chance to reform and get a job
    = some argued that prisons were too liberal
    = not widespread across country at first

Trade Union Reform, 1824 (Peel)

  • Offcially legalised trade unions with certain restrictions
    = workers could be heard but several limitations

Juries Act, 1825 (Peel)

  • Regulated formation of Juries
    = Stopped juries acting in self-interest
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Liberal-Tory Reforms, 1822-29 (4)

Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1826 (Peel)

  • Reduced number off offences punishable by death (By 100)~
    = conviction was more certain & transportation and public hangings remained

Metropolitan Police Force Act, 1829 (Peel)

  • Created 3,000 'Bobbies' in London only
  • Spread slowly (Not to rural areas until 1850s)
    = crime was regulated

Banks Act, 1826

  • Banks couldn't print notes of less than £5
  • Gov. increased size of banks
    = more confidence and investment
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1822-29 Gov.: Liberal or Repressive?


  • Peel single-handedly reorganised & streamlined criminal law. Gave more credibilityto laws and reduced capital offences.
  • Rubenstein: The Gaols Act= a "major reform"
  • Liverpool's death= party broke into Liberal-tory & Ultra-tory factions
    Liberal-toryism began in Liverpool's final years


  • Simplified criminal law but not more lenient. Peel's reforms= conservative
    =designed to make system more effective, not to change it
  • Economic policy by Huskisson designed pre-1823
    = no decisive break to "liberalism"
  • Combinations Act encouraged strikes, restricted freedom of trade unions
    Gov. soon backtracked once workers had taken advantage of it.
  • Huskisson & Robinson= 1st economic experts --> "supported" liberal economics = but necessary not ideological.
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