The Great Reform Act of 1832

Robert Pearce introduces the First Reform Act and asks why parliamentary reform succeeded in 1832 when earlier reform bills had failed.

The Terms of the Act

To the Whig historians of the nineteenth century, the Great Reform Act of 1832 was a far-sighted and generous measure. It was a symbol of Britain’s success in achieving peaceful and progressive change, while the countries of continental Europe were either politically backward, and still dominated by the aristocracy, or subject to violent revolutionary upheaval. Yet in recent decades historians have been more likely to stress the Act’s limitations and its continuities with the old, unreformed political system. 

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