Assess the significance of popular pressure in bringing about improved representation and greater democracy in Britain in the period 1830-1931
The period of 1830-1931 saw gradual yet largely significant governmental reforms which led to an extension of the franchise from 500,000 to around 21 million. Prior to 1832, Britain’s franchise composed of a selective elite of the landowning class, however the 1832 reform act, although a disappointment in the extent of what it achieved, paved the way for further reform as it brought people together in rebellion (the Bristol Riots). This proved that popular pressure had the potential to be very successful in orchestrating parliamentary reform. The influence of pressure from outside parliament was
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The ‘People’s Charter’ was drawn up in 1838 by a group of radicals from the London Working Men’s Association and six radical members of parliament. Established as a result of disillusionment with the ‘reformed parliament’ after the 1832 Reform Act, the charter channelled people’s discontents into demands of a significant extension of the franchise and an improvement in election regulations. By 1839-40 Chartism had become the largest mobilisation of public opinion ever seen in Britain. However at their first National Convention, unable to form an agreement on how to achieve their aims, splits began to appear which significantly weakened their threat to the government and is perhaps the reason why their several petitions were rejected. Although none of the points from the Charter were achieved while the movement was in existence, a distinctive working-class political culture was developed through Chartism, and it was a direct challenge to the parliamentary system. Therefore it can be argued that in the long term it was an indirect cause of improved representation and democracy in Britain.
Rivalry between the political parties was undoubtedly another key factor in provoking democratic change. The period 1830-1931 saw the ‘swing of the pendulum’ between the competitive two great parties: The Liberals’ and Conservatives’ inability to co-operate and recurring attempts to undermine each other’s