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How far do you agree that the extension of the franchise,1830-1931 occured due to 'popular pressure'?

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Introduction

PART B ESSAY: 44 MARKS HOW FAR DO YOU AGREE THAT THE EXTENSION OF THE FRANCHISE, 1830-1931 OCCURRED DUE TO 'POPULAR PRESSURE'? The extension of the franchise occurred between 1830 and 1931 and over the 100 years the franchise increased to around 21 million from 500,000. Over this time there were 4 main acts passed which were passed in 1832,1867, 1884, and 1918. In 1832 the first reform act was passed and although it was not regarded as very extreme, it did pave the way for the other reform acts leading up until 1932 when the extension of the franchise had been complete. The French revolution of 1789 caused upper classes and politicians to fear the possible effects that popular pressure could have and this is the reason why some historians have suggested that popular pressure was the cause of the extension of the franchise. The popular pressure came in the form of covert and overt popular pressure. Covert popular pressure was present as politicians were constantly aware of the threat of revolution, after the French revolution, 1789. This form of popular pressure was reasonably successful and was a factor in all of the acts passed in the extension of the franchise. Overt popular pressure during the extension of the franchise was in the form of unions created by working and middle classes where rallies and meetings were held. Although overt popular pressure didn't go unnoticed, most politicians were not affected by the beliefs and actions of popular pressure groups and overt popular pressure was far less effective than covert pressure. ...read more.

Middle

Both chartists and suffragettes are examples of failed popular pressure groups. Chartism remains one of the best-known working-class movements. Chartism was founded in 1838 and is key aim was to achieve male suffrage. Other aims included secret ballot and annually held elections. It is even know now that the final aim was never achieved as it would not make sense to change power every year as policies often take longer than 1 year to come through. The chartists had very strong movements in some areas of Britain but were very weak in others. It can be argued that the chartist movement was a failure because despite all of its activity in 1838- 1842 it was unsuccessful in persuading parliament to even look at its petitions. Although all of Chartism's aims were eventually achieved (other than annual elections) there are few who believe any of these were down to the effectiveness of the chartist movement, mainly due to the fact that the chartist movement was not active during any reform acts. The suffragette movement is another popular pressure movement, which it can be argued, failed. The movement aimed to achieve universal suffrage, which involved gaining the vote for women and a reform act was passed in 1928 which did achieved this. However it can be argued that the suffragette movement slowed the process of achieving universal suffrage because of some of the violence, which was used at this time by women. ...read more.

Conclusion

This is evident because of Disraeli's actions during the passing of the act. Disraeli accepted any amendments suggested other than those of Gladstone, which meant the act that was finally passed in 1867 was far more extreme than he had originally planned. It is clear that although popular pressure did play a role in the extension of the franchise, the role was relatively insignificant after 1832 and other factors were far more important in the passing of acts during the 19th century. The largest popular pressure movements failed and this can be seen in the examples of the suffragette movement and Chartism which although eventually achieved there aims, this was long after the movements were over. Other factors played a very important role and none more so than the self-interest of politicians, which were clearly demonstrated in the 1867 reform act. This is such an important factor as politicians were so influential and were the people who decided to pass the various acts. Social and economic changes are also important because it can be argued that these changes meant that the political system needed to change with them in order to avoid revolution. Although it is clear that popular pressure is not the most influential factor in the extension of the franchise it must be remembered that popular pressure was influential in the first act in 1832 which actually paved the way to the extension of the franchise. ...read more.

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