Reasons why Britain became more democratic

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The effects of industrialisation and urbanisation

  • Urbanisation and growing class identity and spread of socialist ideas led to demands for a voice for the working classes
  • growth of Labour party offered greater choice
  • demographic change sparked demands for redistribution of seats
  • growing power of middle class wealth creators led to pressure for greater political voice
  • basic education, development of new cheap popular newspapers and spread of railwayshelps create awareness of national issues
  • after 1860 fear of 'revolutionary mob' declined
  • skilled working men in cities were more educated and respectable 
  • that was an argument for giving more men the right to vote in 1867
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Changing political attitudes

  • Political reform no longer seen as a threat
  • In the USA and Europe struggles were taking place for liberty and a greater political say for 'the people'
  • Britain tended to support these moves abroad making it logical for this to happen in Britain too
  • Growing influence of Liberal party challenged old-fashioned landowning interests
  • The Liberal Party opposed power of old landowning aristocracy
  • They supported the secret ballot to help working class voters use their vote without being victimised or blackmailed
  • Politicians could see change was coming and needed to work out how to control it so it would suit their own interests
  • Death of former PM Palmerston represented changing tone of politics 
  • House of Lords lost its veto in 1911 parliament act
  • This made House of Commons most important part of British government
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Party advantage

  • In 1867 the Conservative Party became the government after 20 years out of power
  • They rushed to steal ideas of Liberals and hoped that by giving more men the vote they would be grateful to the Tories and vote for them in the future
  • Corrupt and Illegal Practices Act 1883 limited amount of spending on elections; the Liberals believed the advantage held by the wealthier Tory opponents would be reduced 
  • By placing the reforms of 1883 and 1884 close to the next election, the Liberals hoped to gain advantage from grateful new voters in towns more fairly represented after the redistribution of seats
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Pressure groups

  • 1867 Reform Act passed after large demonstrations were organied by the Reform League and Reform Union
  • Later, but before 1914, the Suffragists and Suffragettes were influential in gaining the franchise for women
  • Trade unions organised support for change and were important in creating the Labour Party which was originally founded to campaign for better working conditions for working-class people 
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Effects of the First World War

  • Many men still had no vote but were conscripted to fight from 1916
  • As further reform for males was being considered, fears of a revival of the militant women's campaign, combined with a realisation of the importance of women's war work led to the Reform Act of 1918 which gave votes to more men and some women
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Effects of examples of developments abroad

  • Many countries had a wider franchise (including votes for women) than Britain.
  • These changes had not led to chaos or problems in the countries that introduced the changes so why should political change lead to problems in Britain?
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