History - The Reform of Parliament (Theme 1)

  • Created by: AshLia
  • Created on: 21-11-17 15:34

Who Could Vote in 1780?

  • Out of a population of 10 million in England, Scotland & Wales, less than half a million (5%) could vote
  • In the counties (rural areas), only those with freehold property worth 40 shillings a year could vote
  • In the boroughs, a wide range of qualifications applied, but usually one had to own proporty or pay local taxes or rates
  • The system dates back to medieval times. Therefore, many new industrial cities such as Manchester and Leeds did not have their own MP
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Who Could Vote by 1928?

  • By 1928 all men and women aged 21 and over had the right to vote
  • Thew only significant difference between the franchise in 1928 and the franchise today is that the voting age was further reduced to age 18 in 1969
  • By 1928 Britian was therefore far more democratic than it had been in 1780
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Major Changes to the Franchise

  • The 1832 Reform Act extended the franchise so that 1 in 5 adult males (20%) could vote
  • The 1867 Reform Act extended the franchise so that 1 in 3 adult males (33%) could vote
  • The 1884 Reform Act extended the franchise so that 3 in 5 adult males (60%) could vote
  • The 1918 Reform Act gave the vote to all men over the age of 21 and to women over the age of 30 if they were a householders or married to one
  • The 1928 Reform Act (Equal Franchise Act) gave women the vote on the same terms as men
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Changes in Political Parties

  • During 1780-1832 Paliament was dominated by two parties with strong landowning interests, namely the Tories and the Whigs
  • During 1832-67 the Tories evolved into the Conservatives and the Whigs into the Liberals, largely due to the extended franchise
  • After 1867 political parties had to take more account of working-class opinion and reporting in the press
  • The 'Labour Party' emerged during the 1880s and 1890s, existing formally as a professional party from 1906
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Franchise Statistics

  • 1780 - c. 490,000 men / 11% of men / 0% of women / 5% overall could vote
  • 1832 - c. 800,000 men / 20% of men / 0% of women 
  • 1867 - 2 million men / 33% of men / 0% of women
  • 1884 - 5 million men / 50% of men / 0% of women
  • 1918 - 13 million men / 100% of men / 8.5 million women / 60% of women
  • 1928 - 14.5 million men / 100% of men / 14.5 million women / 100%
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Causes of Parliamentary Reform, 1780-1832

  • Reform leaugues and Reform Unions
  • Party interests within Parliament
  • Political leadership in and out of Parliament
  • Specific circumstances (e.g. impact of revolutions, wars)
  • Expansion of education and literacy
  • Growth of a radical and popular press
  • Influence of radical intellectuals
  • Extra-parliamentary agitation
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Events during the time of Reforms in Britian

Radical reforms, 1790-1819

Unrest of 1830-31

  • 1832 Reform Act

Chartist movement, Newport Rising

  • 1867 Reform Act

Emergence of British socialism

  • 1884-5 Reform Act
  • 1918 Reform Act
  • 1928 Reform Act
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International Wars during time of Reform in Britia

  • 1775-83: War of American Independence
  • 1792-1802: French Revolutionary Wars
  • 1803-15: Napoleonic Wars
  • 1808-33: Spanish American Wars of Independence
  • 1821-32: Greek War of Independence
  • 1839-42: First Opium War (Britain/China)
  • 1853-6: Crimean War
  • 1856-60: Second Opium War (Britian/China)
  • 1861-5: American Civil War
  • 1870-1: Franco-Prussian War
  • 1877-8: Russo-Turkish War
  • 1879: Anglo-Zulu War
  • 1899-1902: Second Boer War
  • 1912-13: Balkan Wars
  • 1914-18: First World War
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International Revolutions during the time of Refor

  • 1765-83: American Revolution
  • 1789-99: French Revolution
  • 1821: Greek Revolution
  • 1830: July Revolution (France)
  • Belgian Revolution
  • Polish Revolution
  • 1848 year of revolutions
    • French (successful)
    • German states (defeated)
    • Italian states (defeated)
  • 1857: Indian rebellion v. Britain
  • 1870-1: Italian/German unification
  • 1905: Russian Revolution
  • 1911-12: Chinese Revolution
  • 1917: Russian Revolutions
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Rotten & Pocket Boroughs

  • Before the 1832 Reform Act, the system of representation had changed little since medieval times, despite population growth 
  • Many boroughs (urban areas) that had thrived in the Middle Ages had since declined but still elected MPs 
  • The most notorious was Old Sarum, which had only seven voters! 
  • Over 50 seats had fewer than 50 voters each. These were the so-called ‘rotten boroughs’
  • By contrast, many modern industrial cites like Manchester & Leeds did not have an MP
  • Many small boroughs were dominated by local landlords or businessmen and were known as ‘pocket boroughs’ – votes & even whole seats were bought & sold! 
  • More than half of seats were uncontested
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Reforming the System

  • In 1785 William Pitt the Younger  proposed to disenfranchise 36 of the worst rotten boroughs and redistribute their 72 seats to London & the most populous counties, but his bill failed to secure majority support in Parliament
  • The 1832 Reform Act abolished both MPs in 56 rotten and pocket boroughs, whilst 30 boroughs lost one MP. Twenty-two new boroughs with two MPs were created, including Manchester, Leeds and Bolton
  • However, about 70 pocket boroughs remained
  • The 1867 Reform Act deprived 38 small boroughs of one MP and 4 other boroughs lost both MPs because of corruption. Nineteen seats were given to the larger boroughs and 26 to the counties
  • The Redistribution Act of 1885 saw all boroughs with fewer than 15,000 votes lose both of their seats, whilst those with fewer than 50,000 lost one seat 
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Fancy Franchises & Plural Voting

  • During the 1700s and 1800s most members of the upper & middle classes thought that democracy was dangerous & would lead to  mob rule
  • One way of avoiding this was to give more votes to those deemed to be intellectually or morally superior!
  • In 1867 an attempt was made by Disraeli to introduce ‘fancy franchises’ – an extra vote would go to those with professional qualifications or a university degree. This failed, however
  • Even after the 1884 Reform Act, 7% of the population had more than one vote – e.g. graduates of Oxford, Cambridge and London (the elite universities)
  • Plural voting was not completely abolished until 194
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Redistribution Acts

  • As politics became more professional during the 19th century, the emphasis changed from avoiding democracy to ensuring that the electoral system worked in favour of one’s own party
  • The Conservatives & Liberals knew where their core support lay and tried to ensure that constituency boundaries were set to maximise their support
  • The 1832 Reform Act enfranchised many business owners & shopkeepers in cities like Leeds & Manchester; in general these were more likely to vote Whig than Tory 
  • The redistribution of seats in 1867 favoured the Tories by giving more seats to the Tory-dominated counties
  • The Redistribution Act of 1885 created many suburban constituencies out of the larger towns and cities. These were more likely to vote Conservative and still do today!
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Electoral Practices & Expenses

  • At a time of growing democratisation the wealthier members of society had two further ways of holding onto power, namely by intimidation or corruption
  • Until 1872, elections were carried out openly by raising of hands, which enabled landlords & employers to put pressure on their tenants & employees
  • This was ended by the Ballot Act of 1872, which was passed by Gladstone’s Liberal government 
  • The wealthy were also able to spend more on campaigning & bribery than poorer candidates. The Corrupt & Illegal Practices Prevention Act of 1883 set maximum limits for expenditure on elections
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Changes to the Electoral and Representative System

Special Franchises

  • Disraeli tried to create 'fancy franchises' in 1867 but did not succeed
  • The aim of fancy franchises had been to give more votes to the educated
  • After the 1884 Reform Act, 7% of the population still had more than one vote
  • These went to graduates of Oxbridge & London; also occupational voting


  • In rotten & pocket boroughs, local landowners often controlled the seat
  • Secret ballot only introduced with the Ballot Act of 1872
  • In 30 years after 1832, still only about 50% of seats were contested
  • Before 1832 seats were oten bought 7 sold & only 30% were contested
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Changes to the Electoral and Representative System

Election Campaigns:

  • Before 1832 around 25% of electors came under landlord influence
  • Electors were often bribed or plied with food and drink; even kidnapped
  • The Corruption and Illegal Practices Prevention Act was introduced in 1883
  • Each candidate had one paid election agent who had to provide accounts


  • Many industrial towns & cities gained seats in 1832; more suburban seats from 1885
  • Before 1832, 50 seats had fewer than 50 voters each - rotten boroughs
  • 1832 Reform Act abolished 145 rotten & pocket borough seats, but 70 pocket boroughs remained
  • In 1885 all boroughs with fewer than 15,000 voters lost both seats
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Who was still excluded from the franchise by 1884?

  • The 1867 Reform Act had enfranchised male borough residents owning or occupying houses if they had been resident for a year or longer, and male county residents leasing land worth £5 a year, or with property of a rateable value of £12 per year
  • This had effectively given the vote to the 'respectable' working class in boroughs & to rural farmers
  • However, in addition to all women, agricultural labourers in the countryside and casual or transient workers in the towns & cities were still excluded
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The Motives for Further Reform

  • The 1867 Reform Act had created an uneven situation, giving the vote to all householders in the boroughs but not in the counties: a glaring anomaly
  • Gladstone & the Liberals were in power & believed that (a) this ineuqality had to be rectified & (b) that enfranchising rural miners & agricultural labourers would benefit their party
  • There was relatively little external pressure on this occasion; the reform was backed by the Conservatives on the grounds that there would also be a Redistribution Act
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The 1884 Reform Act

  • The franchise was extended to all householders in the countryside who had been resident for a year as well as to £10 lodgers: same as in boroughs
  • 2.5 million new voters (mainly rural) were added; 60%  of the adult male population could now vote
  • However, plural voting still took place. Graduates of Oxbridge & London & Professionals with property in boroughs where they did not lice had more than one vote - 7% of the electorate were still plural voters
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Consequences of the 1832 and 1867 Reform Acts

Changes in the Franchise overall:

  • 1832 - Increased from 11% of men to 20% of men
  • 1867 - Increased from 20% of men to 33% of men

Changes to borough Franchise:

  • 1832 - 145 borough seats abolished; universal £10 qualification
  • 1867 - One -year residency qualification & £10 lodgers enfranchised; compounders included

Impact on Parties:

  • 1832 - Whigs-Liberals dominate 1832-1874
  • 1867 - Conservatives lose in 1868 but win in 1874

Change to county Franchise:

  • 1832 - Chandos Amendement adds £50 farmers to 40-shilling freeholders
  • 1867 - £5 leaseholders and those with property rateable value of £12 enfranchised
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The Redistribution Act of 1885

  • The Conservatives under Lord Salisbury were concerned about a further extension of the franchise & the Tory-dominated House of Lords rejected the Liberal Electoral Bill early in 1884
  • The Bill was passed later in the same year, however, because Lord Salisbury gave his backing to the Reform Bill once had also secured a Redistribution Bill
  • The Redistribution Act, Passed in 1885, carved a large number of suburban constituencies out of large urban areas; London increased from 22 seats to 62 
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Who was still excluded from the franchise

  • The Reform Acts of 1832, 1867 and 1884 had not brought about a democracy within Great Britain
  • Before the Reform Act of February 1918, about 40% of men and all women were excluded from the franchise
  • The men excluded were mainly working class, including those who did not have a one-year residence qualification, sons living with parents, and servants living with their employers
  • Women had been excluded for mainly prejudicial reasons related to perceived gender differences in character & roles
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The Impact of World War One

  • World War One changed attitudes towards women & working class men, making arguments in favour of excluding them from the franchise seem petty
  • Women contributed massively to the war effort, especially in the munitions industry, a process hastened with the introduction of military conscription in 1916 which took more men to the front
  • By the end of the war, 60% of those working in shell factories were women
  • Lloyd George, PM from December 1916, was one of many who were now in favour of votes for women & for all men
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