Reform Act: A First Step Towards Democracy

What was the Great Reform Act of 1832, how did it come about and what, if anything, did it achieve? Stephen Farrell looks at the people and politics involved.

There is a curious but almost entirely consistent feature of the history of constitutional change in Britain, a feature which could be said to typify the twin national characteristics of boldness and caution. It is that significant political alterations – such as the granting of votes for women, or the removal of the hereditary peers from the Lords – are generally resisted for decades, but once adopted are almost immediately absorbed into the general pattern of stable political continuity. Perhaps the very airing of an issue for so long beforehand helps account for the ease with which it is subsequently accepted.

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