To what extent was the 1832 Great Reform Act introduced due to fear of revolution?

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To what extent was the 1832 Great Reform Act introduced due to ‘fear of revolution’?

The Great Reform Act' of 1832 was a turning point in modern Britain and has been seen by many historians as the most important piece of legislation passed in the nineteenth century. During this essay, I will discuss the central issues raised by the interpretation of whether the Great Reform Act was introduced due to ‘fear of revolution’ or was it the result of other internal or external factors.

A motivation for reform was a fear of revolution brought about as a result of increasing unrest in Britain during 1831-32. T.B Macaulay, a Whig MP said that ‘We drive over to the side of revolution those whom we shut out from power.' The idea was that including the middle class would ally them with the upper class and exclude the working class. Without the power and support of the middle class, the working class would not be able to carry out a successful revolution.

While the Whigs genuinely believed that Britain was on the brink of a revolution, historians have been divided on the subject for a number of decades. The debate among historians has raised this question: Was there a real threat of revolution or was the whole situation exaggerated?

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Historians who believe that Britain was in fact on the verge of a revolution have suggested a number of factors which serves as evidence to support their argument, that there was a threat of revolution. Economic distress, reaching a climactic outburst of violence in the Swing Riots 1830-31 is one factor which illustrates the unrest and violence apparent in working class protests, adding to a threat of revolution. Historian Eric Hobsbawm argued that the successful working class revolution in France 1830 had an influence on the growing threat of revolution in Britain, saying that political events ran parallel with those ...

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