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How far had Britain become a democracy by 1928?

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How far had Britain become a democracy by 1928? Britain aimed to become a democratic country throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. By 1928, a democracy was very close to being achieved. For a democracy in Britain, there had to be universal suffrage, where every man and women have the right to vote regardless of class. Also a secret ballot must be in place to prevent corruption. Equal sizes of constitutions need to be enforced, with regular elections and elected members of government. In a democracy, the voters must have civil rights, such as freedom of speech and the right to stand in elections. There were a number of reforms that preceded the 1928, some more progressive than others. In the early nineteenth century, Britain was very undemocratic. It was only the very rich and upper class men who were eligible to vote. Middle and lower classes had no representation and consequently no say in how the country was run. This was partly due to the fact that the members of Parliament were not paid, again in only the very rich being able to stand for elections. The House of Lords was the same, the only way of becoming a Lord was to inherit the title and position, making the House of Lords a very exclusive and conservative House. At this time, a severely small percentage of the population controlled British politics. ...read more.


Once voting was done in private, intimidation decreased dramatically. However, the act did not wipe out corruption completely, between 1867 and1885, four towns were disenfranchised owing to corruption. It took the Corrupt and Illegal Practices Act of 1883 to stop corruption altogether. Candidates were restricted in how much they could spend campaigning and what they could spend it on. The modern historian David Thomson said of Secret Ballot Acts "...the workers of both town and country were able to use their vote freely without fear of reprisals from employer or landlord" However much remained to be done still. The acts of 1884 and 1885 were very progressive in moving towards democracy in Britain. The Representation of The Peoples Act, passed in 1884, dealt with extending the vote. The electorate was increased to five million. Voting qualifications in the towns and in the countryside were now identical males renting or owning property worth �10 or more in rent per annum were granted suffrage. This act was closely followed by the Redistribution of the Seats Act in 1885, which was aimed to construct constituencies roughly of equal size. This meant a lot of smaller places lost seats, whilst the larger old constituencies gained by the change. The total number of MPs increased from 652 to 670. Otherwise known as the Third Reform Act, this has had mixed interpretations from modern historians. ...read more.


Women then helped a huge war effort, doing many jobs never done by women before as men were sent abroad. Many historians say this is what forced the government to change. The Representation of the Peoples Act in 1918 gave the vote to some women. Women had to be over 30, married and educated. These women had, in general, not made many contributions to the war effort and would generally follow their husband's vote. This act also gave the right to vote to all men over 21 and the introduction of general elections being held on one day to stop multiple voting. The 1918 Representation of the People Act had given some women the right to vote and granted all adult men suffrage. In 1928, the second Representation of the Peoples Act was passed by Stanley Baldwin's government. This gave all men and women over 21 the right to vote, making universal suffrage complete. In conclusion, it is clear that, through time and large reform, Britain became a democracy, meeting all the requirements. 1832 had started reform off, giving some of the middle class the vote. 1867 saw the skilled working class enfranchised, and more MPs to represent Scotland. The Secret Ballot Act in 1872 was essential towards democracy, as were 1884 and 1885 acts that redistributed the constituencies. The two Representation of the Peoples Acts in 1918 and 1928 were the final steps in making Britain truly democratic. ?? ?? ?? ?? 2 1 Elaine Gray ...read more.

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