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The First Age of Party 1678-1714

W A Speck looks at new thinking about the emergence of whigs and tories.

The late Geoffrey Holmes coined the phrase 'the first Age of Party' to refer to the period between the emergence of whigs and tories around 1680 and the relegation of the tory party to permanent opposition after the accession of George I in 1714. Although the degree to which the tories were marginalised following the death of Queen Anne has been challenged, her demise indisputably brought to an end also an era in which the parties had alternated in power to such an extent that something like a two party system seemed to be emerging. This was cut short with the triumph of the whigs at Court and at the polls in 1715, after which they retained their hold on power so firmly that Britain almost became a one party state under the first two Georges.

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