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Why was there popular discontent between 1815-1822? How was it expressed and did the government deal with it successfully?

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Introduction

Britain has always been a traditional society. It is one of the reasons so many tourists flock here each year, observing such visual delights such as the changing of the guard or the waving hand of the queen. However, despite our apparent fondness for continuity and stability, at times these values are tested to their very limits. One such period was the aftermath of the Napoleonic wars, namely 1815 - 1822. In this essay, I will demonstrate how the ruling oligarchy was forced to leap from crisis to crisis, desperately trying to quell the increasing tide of civil discontent around Britain. I also hope to explain the reasons behind the protests. The major event of 1815 was the battle of Waterloo, and the subsequent British victory over the French. The end of the war came, however as a mixed blessing for the government. On the one hand, Britain had defeated one of its biggest threats (Napoleon,) and secured its trade routes across Europe, both on and off shore. However, the flip side of the coin held many nasty surprises. Firstly, the 400,000 returning soldiers put an intolerable strain on the labour market. Considering the population at the time was less than 10 million, this extra influx of labour had a major impact on the economy. ...read more.

Middle

Many people felt that the government existed solely to appease the wealthily ruling class and nobody else. They therefore felt that it was time for a change; the administration should work to improve the lives of the vulnerable in society rather that protect the interests of a small few. This was spurred on by the conditions that the working class had to endure while working in the new industries created by the industrial revolution. So, faced with the policies of Lord Liverpool's government, many people felt they were being treated unjustly. Some began to organise 'radical' groups to protest and press for change. Their essential demands were: - A parliament that gave a more accurate reflection of British society, thus giving everybody a voice. - Annual elections, making the administration more accountable. - A secret ballot, allowing people to vote without intimidation or any corruption. The radical movement sprang up all over Britain, and despite being fragmented and uncoordinated, conducted itself with surprising passion and managed to wake the government up to the fact that the people were not happy. Some examples of the way the radical movement expressed its discontent with the situation are the Luddite movement, the spa field riots, the march of the blanketeers and the pentrich rising. The Luddite movement were opposed to the increased mechanisation of the textile industry, and the inevitable job losses and (in most cases) ...read more.

Conclusion

The state of the Radical movement can be compared to the factions of the communist party in Russia around the time of the revolution. Two competing factions - one favouring non-violent transition, the other looking for a violent, bloody revolution were bitterly divided. The same problem existed in Britain 100 years earlier, and created a split that made it very hard to come together to win. The lack of weaponry also hindered the radicals, making them unable to intimidate the government forces sent in to break them up. It has also been suggested that the radical groups were too centred on their own local agenda's and not the hardened revolutionaries they are sometimes portrayed as. This would have seriously weakened their ability to significantly change British society. Therefore, to conclude, The post-war period in 17th Century Britain was a time of great public discontent, caused by the economic downturn (a consequence of the ending of the war economy,) rising unemployment, taxation and a General feeling that the government was out of touch with ordinary people, putting their concerns behind those of the ruling classes. The government tried to deal with the situation by coming down very hard on the reformers, but the failure of the revolutionaries was more to do with a lack of unity among the movment. ...read more.

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