Reform of Parliament 1780 to 1928



County = 122 seats in Parliament - freehold of land worth 40+ shillings could vote 

Boroughs = the rest of the seats 558 seats 

1. 'scot and lot' and 'potwalloper' = you could vote if you made payment into the tax fund OR owned your own hearth to boil own pot.

2. 'burgage' = only if you owned certain pieces of land in a town OR you could buy all the land and choose the MP

3. 'freeman' = vote if you had the status of being a freeman.

4. 'corporation' = the corportation that ran the town choose the MP

University Seats = both Oxford and Cambridge has 2 seats each

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Arguments FOR and AGAINST change

FOR = 

1. growth of the middle class.

2. changing demography - midlands, lanchashire and the north east

3. thomas paine and liberalism - freedom.

4. the media access - hampden clubs

5. post napoleonic war spirtit of change and improvement.


1. Tory Party - sir robert peel and the whigs thought the 1832 act would encourgae greater need for change rather than stop it

2. The Landed Elite - ideas of nobility and privieldge would be lost to the masses.

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1832 Representation of the People Act

Reasons behind the Act = 

1. the end of the napoleonic wars revitalised need for reform

2. 1829 Act of Catholic Emancipation which weakened the Tory party.

3. William IV crowned in 1830 and he was open to reform

4. political unions such as the BPU increased pressure for reform because of their peaceful protests and marches as well as their potential for inciting finacial crisis (stop the duke and go for gold)

5. Economic depression - national discontent and riots 

6. whig determination

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1832 Representation of the People Act continued

Changes made = 

1. uniform voting rules for boroughs - you could vote if you were a property holder with property worth over £10 and for leaseholders it was £50

2. Counties = those who could previously vote with less than 40 shillings kept their vote 

4. voter registration was implemented

Impact of the Changes = 

1. increased electorate to 813,000 - 20% of the make population

2. Plural voting continued.

3. Hustings stayed the same

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1867 Representation of the People Act

Reasons behind the Act = 

1. Russel and Gladstone thought the working class deserved the vote

2. 1864 - the reform union created pressure for greater reform

3. tories saw the advantage of passing it before liberals - disrali saw mild extension was better than a lot.

4. the weaken the liberals disrali wanted reform - he accepted liberals but not gladstone

5. Lord Derby generated support within the House of Lords through patronage 

6. there was external pressure such as riots and protests 

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1867 Representation of the People Act continued

Changes made = 

1. extended boroughs to householder franchise and lodgers for residents for 12 months 

2. counties allowed for more registered voters 

Impact of the changes = 

1. the eletorate increased to 30% of the male population

2. the largest increase was in urban areas like Birmingham or Liverpool

3. yet plural voting continued 

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1884 Representation of the People Act

Reasons behind the Act = 

1. If urban workers were gaining the vote then so should rural workers

2. Salisbury saw it better to control the inevitable

Changes made = 

1. property qualifications between boroughs and counties were standardised - which put poor labourers and tenant farmers at equal £10

Impact of changes = 

1. The electorate increased to 2.5 million working class voters

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1918 Representation of the People Act

Reasons behind the act = 

1. fear that suffragette militancy woud resurge after WW1 

2. many soldiers had been away too long to qualify for residency qualifications

3. contribution of the working class men and women during the war 

4. strong suppoer of Lloyd George as PM

5. the increased presence of trade unions and the labour party

Changes made = 

1. Adults males over 21 (18 for vetrans)

2. women over 30 who were or husbands were property holders 

Impact of changes = 

1. 95% of male population and women made up 43%

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1928 Representation of the People Act

Reasons behind the Act = 

1.1919 sex disqualification act made this difference in qualification illegal

2. the presence of the labour party in 1920s politics 

3. the NUWSS became the NUSEC (1919) advocated female equality

Changes made = 

1. removed different voting qualification between men and women

Impact of changes = 

1. 14.5 million women could vote 

2. only 12 million men could vote

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Reform from 1867 onwards

1872 = the secret ballot act 

  • secret voting to reduce landowner influence 
  • passed by Gladstone's liberal government 
  • particularily changed representation in Ireland by allowing tenants to be free from their English landlords - Irish Home Rule movement

1883 = The Corrupt and Illegal Practices Prevention Act 

  • passed by Gladstone 
  • limited the spending on elections to prevent the tyranny of the majority
  • rules on cooping (supplying food and drink, kidnapp, payment) - organised record keeping and harsh penalties
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Reform from 1867 onwards continued

1885 = The Redistribution of seats act 

  • redraw constituency boundaries - to stop the liberal urban workers from overpowering the conservative rural ones

Changes made =

1. boroughs with less than 15,000 lost both MPs 

2. Those with less than 50,000 lost 1 MP

Impact of changes = 

1. 142 seats to redistribute and 18 new ones 

2. all constinuencies had 1 MP and had similar popultion sizes 

= urban middle class became better represented 

= 'villa toryism' - creation of suburban conservative constituencies 

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