Reform and Conflict 1874-1886

  • Created by: Louise
  • Created on: 18-05-14 14:55

Liberal Weaknesses - 1874 Election

Why did the conservatives win the 1874 election? Liberal Weaknesses:

 -Liberal Party Split

-Liberals focused more on political reform than social reform

-Gladstone alienated key groups of previous support for Liberals:

  • Whigs - meritocracy limited their influence, Irish land act attacked their property rights
  • Nonconformists - education gave protection to anglican schools. Education denominational
  • Brewers - Licensing act gave magistrates more power, attack on their industry
  • Merchants and Industrialists - Gladstone attempted reform for working class, felt left out
  • Trade Unions (Working class/Artisans) - Criminal Law Amendment Act - 
  • Patriotic British Public - Gladstones foreign policy was aimed at peace keeping and he often acted against the interests of Britain

Alienation of these key supporters pushed them to support the Conservatives.

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Conservative Strengths - 1874 Election

Why did the conservatives win the 1874 election? Conservative Strengths:

Disraelis New Conservatism/Tory Democracy:

-Disraeli emphasised Social Reform - gained w/c support (motive for social reform can be questioned, a ploy to win w/c support? a dig at Gladstone?)

-Disraeli was interested in new trends towards democracy to attract working class using social and political reform as he saw the importance of artisan votes.

-Disraeli wanted to maintain tradition and privelage he didnt want to abandon aristocratic hierarchy. This had cost Gladstone's Liberals many supporters - elite class

-Disraeli aimed to reorganize the conservative party in order to reach the new expanding electorate

-Disraeli wanted to uphold the Empire, he provided opposition to Gladstones foreign policy failings - appealed to patriotism

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To what extent was Disraeli a "Tory Democrat"?


  • Disraelis early career  - Began as a radical, in favour for change. His book Sybil highlighted social division, unacceptable to have a large gap between rich and poor.
  • His 1867 Second Reform Act - extended the franchise to the working class
  • Speeches in 1872 - Crystal Palace Speech - "elevate the condition of the people", empire and maintaining tradition. A clear alternative to old conservatism - Modern Conservatism
  • Social Reform in Second Ministry - Social reforms reflected the needs of the working class


  • Disraelis early career - He voted against government interference to help situation of poor - mining, corn laws repeal.
  • Pushed the 1867 bill through just to beat Gladstone. No real desire to enfranchise so many
  • He didn't follow through in his actions what he said in his speech, Reforms didn't follow a clear vision mainly due to opposition to Gladstone. He was oppurtunistic
  • Social Reform in Second Ministry - Merely built on foundations introduced by Gladstones liberal reforms. Legislation permissive.

He understood the power of image, he showed he was a democat but often didnt follow through his actions, or introduced minor measures with little real impact.

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Why did Disraeli introduce social reform?

There was a question of Disraeli's motives: a ploy to pull in w/c support or a dig at Gladstone for introducing social reform? Did disraeli have a consistent commitment to social reform or was he an oppurtunist with no plan for social reform?

Why were Reforms introduced?

  • People expected social reform after what Disraeli had said about them -Disraelis crystal palace speech, Disraeli's book sybil (two nations divided)
  • Government could make practical changes (that were often an extension of existing reforms passed) that were non controversial
  • Social reforms should that the government cared about ordinary workers and families 
  • Disraeli was simply responding to pressure groups

Why were Reforms limited?

  • Government shouldn't interfere too much in peoples lives -Laissez faire, local councils should carry out reform. 
  • Reduction of taxes more important that social reform and appealed to middle class supporters
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Social Reform

1875 Artisan Dwelling Act:
+ Act gave local government power to purchase and redevelop insanitary and overcrowded slums. 
+Long term importance - established state intervention of private dwellings
-Absence of compulsary purchase in the legislation - reduced effectiveness
-Many city councils chose to ignore the non compulsary permissive legislation

1875 Public Health Act:
+Laid down minum standards of drainage, sewage disposal and refuse. Long term improvement.
-Opposition came from laissez faire supporters who believed the act was too much state intervention and interference.

1875 Sale of Food and Drug Act
+Attempt to regulate food industry, what was added to food
-A reluctance to make compulsary the appointment of food analysts by local authorities reduced its impact

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Social Reform

1875 Employers and Workmen Act
+Introduced a contract of service, increased fairness, major step in labour law reform

1875 Conspiracy and Protection of Property Act
+Replaced the unpopular Criminal Amendment Act passed by Gladstone. Act altered conspiracy law, legalized peaceful picketing and gave unions right to strike. Act strengthened Trade Unions.
-Trade Unions didnt traditionally support Conservatives, giving them power didnt win Tories support

1874/ 1878 Factory Acts
+Was a consolidation of previous factory acts, set the regulations for factory conditions and reduced working hours of women and children (which inturn reduced mens) per week.
+Important as it established the principple of the state offering protection to industrial workingers. 
+Pleased tory MP's and Trade Unions. 
-Too much state interference argued supporters of laissez faire

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Social Reform

1876 Merchant Shipping Act
+Act introduced regular inspection of ships to ensure safety and better conditions for sailors.
+Important, state intervention in ensuring safety
-Reform was not of Disraeli but Samuel Plimsoll
-Reform was not compulsary and not fully implemented until 1890

1876 Education Act
+Attempted to improve school attendence by setting up attendence comitees, children wouldnt get a job without an attendence certificate
+Parents realised their responsibility to ensure their childs school attedence
-Act didnt introduce compulsary attendence.
-Act could be seen as supporting Anglican Schools - Would anger NonConformists

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Social Reform Gladstone v Disraeli

Disraeli - Improved lives directly 

  • +Directly affected and improved the lives of the working class (Factory Acts, Public Health Act)
  • -Social reform passed was merely an extension on many of Gladstones social reform introduced (Public Health Act, Education Act, Conspiracy and Protection of Property Act)
  • -Much of the legislation was non compulsary - ineffective (Artisan Dwelling Act, Merchant Shipping Act, Sale of Food and Drugs Act)
  • -Limited reforms due to Laissez Faire

Gladstone - Widened oppurtunities for people in the long term

  • +Gladstone in the long term improved the position of the working class, introduction of democracy and meritocracy gave the ordinary man a chance. (Army, Civil Service, Secret Ballot)
  • -Reform didnt do much to improve social or living conditions.
  • -Introduction of Meritocracy and Democracy didnt directly affect working class in the short term
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Domestic Policy Similarities and Differences

  • Economy: Similarities - Both Disraeli and Gladstone believed in free trade and low taxes Differences - Gladstone more concerned about cutting government spending. Disraeli more concerned to reduce local taxes, Gladstone wanted to abolish income tax
  • Social Reform: Similarities - Conservatives Public Health Act built upon the Liberal Act which had set up sanitary authorities. Liberals would have ammeded the Criminal Law Amedment Act if they stayed in power. Conservatives Education Act built upon the Liberal Act. Many Conservative social feforms were merely an extension of Liberal Reforms, Conservatives benefited from hindsight. Differences - Liberals social reform was based on achieving a meritocracy to increase oppurtunity, Conservative social reform aimed to elevate the condition of the people. 
  • Ireland: Differences - Disraeli condemed the idea of Irish Home Rule. Conservatives strongly opposed the disestablishment of the Church of Ireland
  • Political Beliefs: Similarities - Both parties defended the established Church of England. Differences - Disraeli remained elitist and old fashioned in attitude to established privelage, Gladstone saw need to establish a meritocracy, moral motives.
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Assessment of Disraelis Domestic Policy

  • Much of the legislation was adoptive rather than compulsory - which was a limiting factor. Many local authorities avoided taking action, either due to cost, too much state interference or discomfort in imposing restrictions.
  • Reluctance to accept a rapid extension of the states responsibility for peoples welfare. Indicated the attitudes of middle ad upper class of laissez-faire + self help.
  • Can be argued that the motive behind some of Disraelis legislaton was a "thankyou" to groups that deseted the Liberal party and helped bring the tories to power.
  • Although much legislation directed towards urban population, there were few constructive and extensive social reform.
  • Disraelis greatest social achievment was in trade union legislation and labour laws. Encouraged the growth of Trade Unions. But Disraelis motive was to gain and retain lasting support of working class, but w/c was fickle and their appreciation for Disraeli was fading fast.
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Disraeli and the Eastern Question

Decline of Ottoman Empire caused the Eastern Question. Slavs in Balkans were keen to get independence from Turk Empire. 

Threat to peace of Europe due to interests of Russia and Austria-Hungary.

Austro-Hungarian Empire - included many slavs, concerned of a slav rebellion as this may lead slavs in Austria-Hungary to revolt and break up the Empire. 

Russia - Pan-Slav movement, believed that they should protect Slavs in Turkish rule. 

It suited Disraeli to commit himself to a policy of containing Russia's ambitions and to lend support to Turkey to achieve this.

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Eastern Crisis 1875-7

  • Balkan Christians suffered persecution in the Ottoman Empire (Broke agreement made at Treaty of Paris) 
  • Result was a revolt in Bosnia and Herzegovina against the Turks in 1875. This was a Balkan nationalist rising that spread to Buglaria.
  • Great Powers tried to deal with unrest by diplomatic means. 
  • Disraeli publicly expressed concern, worried the Dreikaiserbund would exploit the situation. 
  • Driekaiserbund issued the Berlin Memorandum, Disraeli refused to be a signatory on the grounds that he handlt been consulted on the terms. His true reason was he didnt want to weaken Turkey, a weakened Turkey wouldnt be able to stop Russian expansion into the Mediterranean - Damage British interests (access to India)
  • Disraeli now sent British navy into the Dardanelle straits, this showed Britain couldnt be included in European decision making.
  • Turkey saw Disraelis moves as support and stopped the Bulgarian revolt by carrying out hideous atrocities against Christians. - Strong reaction in Britain.
  • Gladstone made a violent verbal attack against Disraelis actions. 

Disraelis foreign policy actions had sabotaged a settlement of the eastern crisis, encouraged the Turks to carry out atrocities against Bulgarians and formed bad opinions of him, British public.

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Conference at Constantinople - 1876

  • Disraeli called a conference to try and solve the worsening situation 
  • Demands for Turkish reform were rejected by Sultan
  • Disraeli refused to pressurise Turks
  • Conference broke up, Russia declared war on Turkey 1877, acting on behalf of persecuted Christians.
  • Disraeli said Britain would only remain neutral if Russia didn't threaten Britains position in Egypt and the Suez Canal
  • Public Opinion at home turned to Disraeli, patriotism "jingoism" with anti-Russian feeling
  • War ended the following year, treaty of San Stefano, Bulgaria > Big Buglaria due to Russias demands
  • Britain and Austria called for a European congress
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Treaty of Berlin 1878

  • Disraelis main objective was to keep Russia out of the Mediterranean and reduce Russias influence in the Balkans. 
  • The "Big Bulgaria" proposed in the treaty of San Stefano was broken up, smaller state created and returned to Turkey
  • Agreement between Britain and Turkey, Britain receieved Cyprus, Turkey promised toleration of Balkan Christians in return for Britain guaranteeing Turkish Dominions. Britain could keep a watch on Russian ship movements to Suez Canal
  • Austria Hungary occupation of Bosnia
  • Independance of Serbia and Montenegro. Serbia enlarged.


  • Congress of Berlin - Personal triumph for Disraeli "peace with honour"
  • Strengthened Turkey in the Balkans
  • Averted full scale war but placed many Christians under Turkish rule 
  • Disraeli failed morally and recieved much criticism from Gladstone (Bulgarian Horrors)
  • AH occupation of Bosnia weaked Dreikaiserbund
  • Independace of Serbia - serbian nationalists, 
  • Laid foundations of future problems, 30 years later - outbreak of WW1
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Disraelis Imperial Policy

South Africa - Zulu War - 
1877, Colonial Secretary (Earl of Carnarvon) put pressure on the Dutch Settlers, the Transvaal Boers to accept the annexation of the Transvaal by Britain to deal with the threat of a Zulu attack Carnarvon appointed a Brtish high commisioner who disobeyed orders from London and got involved in a war against the Zulus. Disraeli was furious at the news of the war, his own reputation suffered due to the freedom he had given Carnarvon. Disraeli succeded in consolidating British control BUT sowed seeds of future conflict - Boer Wars.

Egypt and the Suez Canal
1875, Disraeli acted decisiviley over the purchase of shares in the Suez Canal, huge advantages :

  • Britain negotiated a low rate for British shipping to pass through the canal- stimulated trade
  • Deal helped establish a solid British interest in Egypt
  • Reduced travelling time to India and the Far East

British India
Indian north-west frontier with Afghanistan. Russia v Britain, who could gain control. Lord Lytton sent troops into Afghanistan and chased the Russians out. Criticism of Disraeli's appointment and lack of control of Lytton. But soon after a stable relationship with Afghanistan emerged.

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Conservatives defeated in 1880

  • Great Depression - from 1873, rate of economic growth of Britian slowed. Led to a fall in wages (5%) and unemployment increased.
  • Agricultural Depression - from 1877, Import of cheap N. American grain led to a fall in corn prices. Potato famine caused major problems in Ireland. Disraeli didn't think protectionism was practical
  • Rise In Taxation - Wars in Afghanistan and S. Africa led to an increase in income tax.
  • Party Organisation - Conservatives had lost their principal agent who coordinated Conservative logal organisations across the country. Liberals improved organisation with the National Liberal federation.
  • Gladstones midlothian campaign - Gladstone came out of retirement to campaign against Disraelis policies (Handling of Eastern Question) high profile campaign which attacked Disraeli and appealed to NonConformists.
  • Foreign and Imperial policy - did not promote clear success for Britain - costly and unpopular. Gladstone regarded Dis foreign and impresial policy as agressive, expensive and against British interests. 

Gladstones second ministry 1880-1885, Disraeli dies soon after the election defeat, Lord Salisbury takes over as leader of the Conservatives.

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Electoral Reform - Corrupt Practises Act

Corrupt Practises Act - 1883

  • Secret ballot act 1872 had suceeded in removing intimidation at elections but corruption remained.Gladstone introduced the Corrupt Practices Act to tackle this problem.
  • This Act ensured a candidates election expenses were set to a specified limit, and made clear what money could be spent on.
  • Act clearly defined illegal and corrupt practices, stopped bribery and corruption at elections. It meant politicians has to win votes by promoting better policies > reinforced by growing working class.
  • Act increased democracy in Britain
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Electoral Reform - 3rd Reform Act

Franchise Act - 1884

  • Push for this franchise reform came from Joseph Chamberlain, he believed extending the franchise to labouring population would gain Liberals voters. Gladstone agreed but took full credit for the reform.
  • Removed discrimination over voting, it was no longer tied to property. 
  • Electorate doubled, 3> 6 million. Agricultural labourers and miners now had the vote.
  • Act enfranchised the working classes and reduced the influence of landed classes. 
  • Step towards democracy
  • BUT some w/c could still not vote as there was a requirement of 12 months tenancy

Redistrubtion of Seats - 1885

  • Redistribution of seats brought an end to the over representation of rural areas and under representation of industrial towns and cities. 
  • Most constituencies now single member and equal sized, fair representation across GB.
  • Increased electorate encouraged the two main political parties to improve organisation 
  • Liberals had lost much necessary old whig support by the abolition of so may seats. The radical liberals led by Joseph Chamberlain toon on a more influental role within the Liberal Party. It marked the beggining of the end of Gladstones Liberalism.
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Lack of other reform

Although much was achieved in the way of electoral reform, Gladstone achieved little else in terms of reform. 

  • Distracted by cries abroad and problems in Ireland. 
  • Tensions between factions in the party also impacted on a cohesive programme.
  • Gladstone now over 70 was increasingly difficult to work with
  • Chamberlains ambitions were harder to contain. However his plans for social reform, ignored by Gladstone and feared by Whigs, attracted the voters who gave the Liberals a majority in the 1885 election and gave Gladstone a short lived third term in office.
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Foreign and Imperial Policy

Views central to Gladstones Foreign Policy:

  • "Concert of Europe" - Conserved the balance of power in Europe, be a peacemaker and organise conferences in which to settle disputes. European powers should act together to preserve peace. Respect rights of other countries even if it went against British Interests.
  • "International Arbitration" - International diplomacy and discussion.

Gladstone voiced fierce opposition to Disraelis foreign and imperial policy. Agressive, Immoral and Expensive.

It is difficult to pin down Gladstones approach to the Empire.

  • 1st Ministry - Gladstone was disinterested. Although Empire was a duty, wanted to keep it together and to civilise other colonies. No particular interest in expansion.
  • Disraeli (1874-1880) - Gladstone very Anti-Imperialist.
  • 2nd Ministry - Signs that Gladstone held a Pro-Imperalist Stance - more intervention and emphasis on Empire
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Foreign Policy - Egypt

By 1878, Egypt on the verge of political and economic collapse. Britain had investment in Egypt and Suez canal. 

  • Egypt vital for trade due to Suez Canal
  • Disraeli had kept out of Egypt after acquiring Cyprus as an eastern Mediterranean base
  • After anti-foreign riots in Egypt, Gladstone sent troops and navy to bombard Alexandria, agressive foreign policy by Gladstone.
  • Egyptians defeated in Battle of Tel-el-Kebir and Cairo occupied
  • Gladstone had now acquired more land than Disraeli

Gladstone justified his "ungladstonian" decision to otherthrow the nationalist movement as British interests were of greater interest than gaining Egypt's stability.

  • Concerted Europe Actions with Egypt failed
  • Situation caused friction betweeen Britain and France. France and Germany jealous of Britains power in East Africa
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Foreign Policy -Sudan

Sudan was under control of Egypt. Sudans authority had been undermined by a religious extremist - the Mahdi.

  • Gladstone expressed some sympathy for the Mahdi's position and right to fight for his peoples freedom and right to self govern and no interest in Sudan so ordered withdrawal of troops stationed there under General Gordon
  • Gordon had marched to Khartoum to show British authority, contrary to orders. Gordon ignored orders to retreat, was besieged, and killed. Relief expedition arrived two days too late

  • Gladstone continued his policy of withdrawal, leaving the Mahdi in control.

  • Very unpopular in Britain, humiliated with Gladstones withdrawal from the Sudan, Mahdi was victorious. British public also angry at the abandonment of Gordon (Hero)

  • Gladstone had made a mistake in the choice of Gordon (pro-Imperialism)

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Foreign Policy -Transvaal

Zulus defeated in 1879. Trasvaal made a crown colony instead of self governing as promised. Gladstone had strongly criticised the annexation of the trasvaal in 1877 by Disraeli and so, expectation from the Boers that they would have independance. 

  • 1881, Gladstone stalled on the issue of transvaal independance, he was considering a South Africa confederation. 
  • As a result fighting broke out between the British and the Boers. Humiliating defeat of British at Majuba Hill -1881
  • Gladstone reacted by a compramise of independance, with the British crown maintaing sovereignity. 
  • Soon dropped after the Boers angry reaction. 1884, British Governement finally recogonized South African Republic. 
  • Gladstone hesitated before withdrawal, which was a costly mistake and Boers regarded British as weak.
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Foreign Policy - Afghanistan

-Gladstones intention was to withdraw from Afghanistan

-Lord Ripon pursuaded Gladstone to continue defence of Afghanistan, although Gladstone believed it was risky. British didnt have enough control for sucess.

-In 1885, Russians siezed Afghan town of Penjden

-Russia expected to get away with it (due to Gladstones handling of Sudan)

-But Gladstone suprising threatened force and Russia withdrew

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Overview of Foreign and Imperial Policy

-Gladstones Foreign Policy attitudes in his second ministry appear confusing and contradictory

-Gladstone seemed to have a different approach in some events, considering Britains interests before mainting peace and the balance of power (Egypt - Suez Canal)

-However Gladstone was against interference with nationalist movements as he believed they had the right to express themselves, at the same time against pro-imperialist policies. 
Transvaal and Sudan made Gladstone and Britain appear weak

-Very little sympathy and understanding of Gladstones foreign policy actions. Even his sucesses were met with criticism and created divisions in the party between:

  • Radicals - Anti-Imperialists
  • Whigs - Pro-Imperialists
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Irish Land League

Why was there unrest in Ireland in late 1870s?

  • Effects of agricultural depression
  • 1877-1879, wet summers, terrible harvests and competition with cheap american corn> low crop yields and fall in price of wheat> fall in profits
  • Irish hard hit, tenant farmers couldn't pay rent and were evicted
  • Showed failure of 1870 land act - Act didnt offer protection
  • Response of Irish Peasants - Land War demanding lower rents and redistribution of land

Irish Land League

  • October 1879 - set up by Micheal Davitt - Fenian
  • Grew quickly across Ireland
  • Aim > Reform land tenure system, gain security for tenant farms - fair rent, fixity of tenure, free sale of right of occupancy
  • Backed by Parnell - Star of parlimentary Home Rule Party - encouraged activities of the Land league. "New Depature" - Linked land reform movement with Home Rule Party. Increased parlimentary power of Ireland.
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Methods of the Land League

Demonstrations - Mass meetings demanding "3Fs", meetings encouraged tenant farmers to withold their rent. Meetings often led to violence

Violence - Neither Parnell nor Davitt condemed violence but both urged members not to get involved in criminal activity. Violence flared as the agricultural depression worsened and the number of evictions spiralled.

Political - Parnell called for decisive action again Irish landlords and a campaign of obstructionism in parliament (filibustring) to delay legislation. Used at every opputunity byt Irish nationalists.

Boycotts - Non-violent but unnerving and encouraged by Land League. Landlords guilty of abuses would be ostracised.

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Land League: Conspiracy or Distress

Conspiracy or Distress?

Conspiracy (against landowners/government)

  • linked land reform movement with parlimentary
  • backed by parnell - home rule party - using obstructive tactics
  • using examples of poverty and distress for a wider political (Home Rule) movement

Distress (genuine poverty)

  • Huge effects of agricultural depression caused distress across Ireland
  • Irish peasants response to poverty shown in unrest and violence
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Gladstones Response to the Land League

Policy of Coercian - Repress disorder - (1881 Protection of Person and Property Act)

Gladstone regarded Land League as a criminal "conspiracy" apart from the non-payment of rent, which he accepted was due in part to genuine "Distress". Escalating unrest and unlawlessness prompted a policy of coercian.

Policy of Concilliation - Remove discontent - (1881 Land Act) 

Gladstone accepted the need for another land act to counterbalance the negative effects of coercion. Gladstone twice instigated secret talks with Parnell, while he was in jail and again after the arrest of the Phoenix Park murders. He hoped the land act would successfully adress the issue of land tenure. Parnell initially saw the Land Act as a victory for his methods of incessant protest and was encouraged to apply more pressure until Home Rul was established. He encouraged tenants to continue to withold their rent and to continue to boycott the new land court. He altered his approach after his arrest and the Phoenix Park Murders.

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Policy of Coercian

1881 -Protection of Person and Properties Act

  • Anyone suspected of illegal activities could be imprisoned without trial
  • Filibustering made illegal, Parnell and his followers imprisoned and Land League outlawed
  • However due to growing support for Parnell, Gladstone sent Joseph Chamberlain to reach a compramise with him. Parnell was released on condition that he would renounce violence and end the rent strikes, government agreed they would settle rent arrears of all tennants.
  • The "Phoenix Park" murders set back the prospect of cooperation. Parnell denounced the murders but the violence continued and it seemed as if Parnell had lost some influence.
  • A tougher Coercian Act (the Prevention of Crimes Act) was passed and the Phoenix Park murdered arrested.
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Policy of Concilliation

1881 Land Act

Direct response to Land Leagues demands. There was much opposition in parliment.

  • Special land courts were set up to establish a fair rent with both landlord and tenant bound by the decision
  • Rent was to be fixed for 15 years
  • Tenant safe from eviction as long as he paid the rent and the rent could not be raised against a tenants improvements

-Didn't help tennants already in arrears and no definition of "fair rent"

+However in practice, rents were set 20% lower which brought down the price of land and enabled tenants to buy land.

+After a slow start tennants flocked to the land courts. It helped to turn around the prospects of Irish peasantry by helping them achieve ownership of lands

As a further concession Gladstone introduced the Arrears Act which cleared the rent arrears od all tennant farmers that had built up during the land war. This was after more talks with Parnell.

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Home Rule Movement

Why did the movement gain momentum in the 1880's?

Irish Home Rule Movement developed into a powerful political force. Irish Nationalists, the Home Rule Party - 3rd party of government, they held the balance of power. 

  • Parnell - Skillful management of Irish MP, lrish Nationalist Party, Became inspiring leader of Home Rule Movement, Parnell often dominated parliament - Fillibustering, Parnells leadership was a main factor in pursuading Gladstone to support home rule
  • Ballot Act - 1872 Act had stopped intimidation and sucess of home rulers in the 1874 election was the ability of the Irish voter to express himself freely without peer pressure from land lord, more votes for Irish Nationalist Party
  • Pressure Groups - Land League put pressure on Gladstone, led to introduction of 1881 land act, land league alliance with Parnell and Home Rule
  • Great Depression - Increase in economic and social distress, increased anti-british feeling and desire for seperation, incr support for Home Rule Party
  • Gladstones First Ministry Failings - Gladstone alienated his own supporters with his Irish legislation, and it didnt satisfy Irish people (1870 Land Act)
  • 3rd Reform Act - Gave Irish agricultural labourers the vote - incr votes for Irish Nationalists
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Ulster fear of Home Rule

  • Ulster (North) had traditionally enjoyed more economic prosperity than the largely poor agricultural south of Ireland
  • Ulster - Protestant (South - Catholic)
  • Close trading links with Empire, Ulster - Unionism (South- Nationalism)
  • They feared home rule would overwhelm ulsters special relationship with Britain and dilute prosperity
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Gladstone's Conversion to Home Rule

  • He believed the government should remain consistant in its Irish policy
  • New outbreaks of violence in Ireland now Salisbury in power
  • Political Motivation - Win support of Irish Nationalists who had balance of power in 1885
  • Pacify Ireland - Home rule is a last resort after 1870 land act, 1881 land act, in face of continuing violence when salisbury ended coercian, Home rule would bring stability in Ireland

Gladstones policies are consistant, liberal and moral approach

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Progress in Industry 1850-1870

Unprecedented spurt of industral and economic growth. Middle and artisan class enjoyed risin income and increased consumption. Better education and public health though not everyone shared rising living standards. Those in lower classes remained in poverty. 

Economic progress was a result of many factors:

  • Growth in export orders and overseas markets - Huge demand for British goods, increased orders for produces and manufacturers.
  • Key Industries - In Britain key industries were at the centre of the rapidly growing economy (coal, iron, cotton), Britain had a plentiful supply of natural resources
  • First industrial power - By 1865 Britain had overtaken other countries in establishing markets at home and abroad for its wide range of quality goods. 
  • Greatest colonial power - Britain controlled vital trade routes to its colonies and other overseas markets
  • Laissez- Faire - Free trade encouraged overseas trading and stimulated British industry
  • Large population - Provided a large workforce and an expanding home market
  • Railways - facilitated industrial development, mobilty of workforce and carriage of goods
  • Captital investment - profits from increasing sales and exports > railways abroad, capital available for reinvestment from development of banking, invisible trade
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Was there a Great Depression 1873-1896

Contemparies view was a period of Great Depression. However the the Economy was still growing.

  • Although agriculture was depressed, overall state of the economy is seen as going through a period of "readjustment" rather than depression.
  • To the victorians however, it was a reality. Their confidence was hit by narrowing profit margins, falling prices and for the first time - foreign competition.
  • As the depression followed a period of outstanding growth, this made the downturn appear even worse and contemparies feared national decline.
  • Economy was still growing BUT at a much slower rate. production of coal, steel and cotton was still growing.
  • Falling prices meant small profits for manufacturers and workers were laid of more frequently
  • Periods of unemployment, though they were not sustained.
  • Depression in agriculture continued but there was recovery in industry by 1880, another less severe slump in the mid 1880's followed by another in the mid 1890's.

Failure to sustain previous rates of growth due to the causes of the "Great Depression". Downturn appeared worse in reality because it followed a period of outstanding growth. So British believed they were experiencing a depression.

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Causes of Industry Depression

  • Overseas Competition - Britains export markets were the basis of its economic supremacy. Britain was the first industrialised nation - export of coal, iron and steel. For the first time ever in the 1870s Britain was experiencing serious competition as a result of the rapid industrialisation of USA and Germany. By 1890, USA had overtaken Britain in Iron and Steel production. Britain stayed ahead only in the production of coal. 
  • Tariff Barriers - Britains competitiors introduced tariff barriers, a problem for Britains export dependant economy. Germany introduced tariffs in 1879 and USA in 1890, Britain continued its policy of free trade despite pressure from protectionists. Less foreign income. Increased overseas competition. 
  • End of Railway Boom - The boom in railway building had ended in 1875 as most major towns had good rail links. This reduced demand for iron and steel and lead to job losses. Less domestic income. This caused depression of internal markets and led to a decrease in circulation of Gold. 
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Causes of Industry Depression

  • Outdated Technology - As it industrialised first, Britains industrial technology and machinery was not as advanced as its competitors. There was a reluctance to invest new capital. Britain therefore did not have the technology to compete with Overseas Competition.
  • Absence of Entreprenuerial Drive - Entreprenuerial spirit of earlier industrialists was passed down to less capable/ interested successors.The sons of early industrialists tended to enjoy the material successors of their fathers and were sent to public schools, emphasis was on classics and gentlemanly pursuits. The impact was little engagement in development of new industries, such as chemical and electrical industries. New industries could have helped Britains trade and allowed her to compete with overseas powers. It also meant there was no innovation/ drive to introduce new machinery and technology. 
  • Shortage of Gold - The amount of currency in circulation was linked to the value of gold help in the Bank of England. Less currency in circulation caused a slow-down of economic activity and depression. Therehad been no new discoveries of gold since the 1850s until it was found in massive quantities in the Transvaal in the late 1880s. Overseas competition also increased this problem, British goods were in lower demand so less money, less gold and less stimulus for trade.  
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Impact of the Great Depression

Average levels of unemployment rose from 1873 until they hit a peak in 1879, 11.4%. Fell away in 1882, 2%, reached 10% in 1886. (Fluctuations)

  • Periods of unemployment experienced by large numbers of the respectable artisan classes.
  • Support of TU's and Friendly Societies was not enough to allievate their circumstances, there was no State Welfare
  • Majority of unemployed unskilled labour had no unions (until 1880's) and they were forced to rely on the support of family or resort to the workhouse. 
  • However falling prices meant cheaper goods in shops, rise in real wages - for those employed

What changes might these pressures lead to in the Future?

  • State must reform to deal with short term unemployment
  • Development of (New) Trade Unions to now include unskilled workers as well as artisans. 
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Golden Age of Agriculture

The years after the repeal of the Corn Laws (removing tariffs on corn) in 1846 up until 1873 were a time of prosperity and progress in Agriculture. High yields, steady prices, rising income and scientific technological innovation. "High Farming"

  • Farmers protected themselves against a sudden downturn in prices by moving to mixed farming (Crops and Livestock). Surplus crops fed the animals and animal manure fed the crops. Much of profits coming from rearing livestock. 
  • Artifical fertilisers were marketed. By 1870 the industry was worth £8 million a year. Increased crop yield. 
  • Drainage improved with the manufacture of clay pipes and government loan schemes enabled farmers to invest. Better drainage increased crop yield.
  • Steady growth of the population increased the demand for food.
  • No real foreign competition at this time. Transporting goods by sea was slow. At the beginning of the 1870s British farmers were producing 50% of home comsumption of wheat and 90% of meat. 
  • High yielding harvests as a result of a long cycle of dry summers also gave British agriculture a boost. 
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Causes of Depression of Agriculture

The Golden Age of Agriculture came to an abrupt end in the 1870s.

Overseas Competition - Wheat - 1870s N.America praries had rich soil and a large yield of wheat. Railways provided a Cheap transport of grain which helped the USA to compete with Britain. USA mechanisation, combine harverster farm machinery in USA increased yield further. Meat - Devleopment of canning process in 1880s in S.America and USA, to preserve meat and export to Britain. Refrigeration methods develeoped, increased meat transportation. Could now compete with British Goods. 

Continuing Free Trade - Disraelis decision (1874-1880) to continue Gladstones free trade policy - no tariff protection from foreign competition. 

Wet Summers - Low crop yield, crops rotted in the ground and there was a shortage of animal feed. Outbreaks of disease amongst livestock (foot and mouth and swine fever). Recovery was difficult especially with the onset of foreign competitors. 

Result: Due to the innovations and advances of foreign competition, British prices fell heavily. Loss of jobs - farmers and labourers moved to towns. 

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Effects of Agricultural Depression

Areas most badly hit - Wheat counties - foreign wheat competition decreased the demand for British grain. 

Impact on Agricultural Labourers - Farmers went bankrupt and many became unemployed. Labourers deserted the countryside to move to urban areas, although life was still bad here due to depression in industry. Many workers found a better life by emigration to USA and Canada. The number of Agricultural Labourers decreased. 

Changes in British Agriculture - British farmers had to diversify in order to survive, mixed farming less badly affected. In some arease new sucessful developments but in other areas less scope for changed. Dairy farming (not easily imported) and poultry farming became popular. Devleopment of market gardening - fruit, flwers and vegetables - grew well. In Britan as a whole, cultivation fell, pasture increased.

Impact of Agricultural Depression in Ireland - Irish tenant farmers were equally hard hit by the rising wheat prices - uinable to pay rent and forced out by their landlords. 

BUT some historians argues that it was the "line of urban living" as the city rose the countryside declined. 

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To what extent was there a Great Depression?


  • YES - Effects worse in agriculture - overseas competition. Unemployment -agricultural labour shift > Cities and Towns. Increased emmigration. Decline of the countryside. 
  • NO - Not all farmers suffered to the same extent. Moving to urban areas was the attraction of urban life not the situtation in Agriculture.


  • YES - End of railway boom, shortages of gold, lack of entrepreneurial drive, lack of investment in new industries, lack of modernisation in Industry. - Increase in foreign competition, staple industries were reliant upon exports and free trade.
  • NO - slowing down of growth rather than a depression. Period of readjustment not absolute decline. For those still not in work - real wages increase due to falling prices. Decline was cyclical, periods of recovery throughout. 
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