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The Most Important Steps in British Democracy Were Taken Between 1867 and 1918.” How far do you agree?

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John Dickie 5F2 Higher History "The Most Important Steps in British Democracy Were Taken Between 1867 and 1918." How far do you agree? I believe that it is quite true to claim that the most important steps in British democracy were taken in the period of 1867 to 1918. Preliminary steps, ones that contributed to democratisation, were also taken in the decades before this, but the most important events that caused Britain to become a democracy, took place in this fifty-year period. British democracy today involves all adults being enfranchised. Steps taken along the road to democracy in the early 1800s did not come anywhere near this level of democracy. Acts after this time, in the second half of the century came progressively closer to this goal. Before the period of 1867 to 1918, there were limited attempts made towards reform, but there was a widespread belief amongst the ruling parties of the day that the poor and women were unable to form valid or useful opinions for themselves. This was due to the fact that all MPs were landowners, a fact protected by law. These landowners did not see it necessary that the poor should have any say in how the country was run because they were seen as having no valuable views on politics and could not contribute to society due to their lack of wealth, and perhaps more importantly, property. ...read more.


The fact that a more representative government structure was needed for the expanding and changing Britain was seen by some MPs. In 1867, the Second Reform Act extended the franchise was extended to over 1.1 million more people around the country, and so now the right to vote was held by around two and a half million males. The new system was a lot fairer, with all rate-paying men, living in boroughs, who had been paying rent for a year, were allowed to vote, and also lodgers in accommodation which had an annual value of �10 of more, became voters, people occupying buildings with �12 or more in rateable value were also enfranchised. These changes made it possible for nearly one in three people in Britain to vote in elections, a notable increase from the one in seven who could vote previously. Politicians such as Gladstone were wary of progressing in reform towards a greater level of democracy due to the opposition that would be met, not only by many voters, but also by his own Liberal party. He saw however that the likelihood was that sections of the community enfranchised by him would be likely to support him further on down the line. ...read more.


Arguably, the most important piece of legislation to be passed that took Britain nearer being a democratic state was the Representation of the People Act of 1918. This saw the strong demands of the past decades of the suffragettes made a reality. All women over the age of 30 were now allowed to vote. Another part of this Act, which made Britain a democratic state, was to enfranchise all men over the age of 21. It is clear that the most important steps towards Britain becoming a democracy were taken between 1867 and 1918. The period beforehand had seen the vast majority of the country's population having no say whatsoever in the running of the land. The 1832 Reform Act, the only significant piece of legislation to be taken affecting the democratic system did not have any lasting effect the fairness of the political system in the Britain. It had to be patched up and changed and built upon so much that it had no lasting effect. I feel that it is quite obvious that in the latter half of the nineteenth and first two decades of the twentieth centuries, the most important efforts towards democracy were taken. The franchise was given to all adult males and a large proportion of the adult females. Britain was almost a true democracy in the modern sense at the end of 1918. ...read more.

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