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To what extent were the divisions between the parties 1846-1865 about ideology?

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To what extent were the divisions between the parties 1846-1865 about ideology? After the repeal of the Corn Laws and the subsequent split of the Conservative Party, a very interesting passage in British politics ensued in which differences and division were paramount. Indeed this is exemplified by the fact that there were eight ministries in this relatively brief period. There are two suggestions for this. Firstly it is argued that the fundamental ideological differences namely over the question of free trade manifested themselves in huge divisions between the Conservatives and the broad Liberal coalition throughout this period. It is thus argued that despite internal division within the coalition, politics during this period was essentially the Conservatives fighting against the Whig-Liberal coalition. ...read more.


Finally one will examine the huge and innumerable differences in policy and attitude of the various aspects of the coalition in general. Once this has been done it will become clear that although division over free trade was undoubtedly important in uniting the Whig-Liberal coalition, it was not the only thing that kept the broad coalition together. Furthermore one will see that both domestic and foreign policy making during this period were about opportunism rather than ideology. Finally one will see that the differences and divisions of this period were in no way restricted to the Conservatives and the coalition, they were prevalent throughout the period. Indeed it was just as common for the whole coalition to be fighting against the Conservatives as it was for the Conservatives to be fighting with some aspect of the coalition against another. ...read more.


Debate then raged within the coalition on the subject of on what lines the new coalition should be formed. However when the Conservatives finally attempted to adopt free trade with their very moderate reform bill of 1859, virtually the whole coalition united to defeat the bill and subsequently after an election a new Liberal coalition government took office. Thus free trade was a common goal with which all members of the coalition could share. Indeed many people call Palmerston conservative which he was in many ways but even Palmerston saw this measure as too Conservative. Thus although many policy differences during this period were mainly due to opportunism, there was a huge issue which separated the parties for purely ideological reasons; free trade. Matthew Carman History Mr Clarke ...read more.

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