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Popular Protests and the Reform Bill of 1832

            The issue of parliamentary reform was a recurring issue through the late 18th century and early 19th century, and it is argued popular protest was central to the Whigs attempt to make Parliament a fairer representation of what was a changing demographic, with events such as the Bristol Riots epitomising unrest at what was viewed as an outdated, corrupt system. Other factors included the weaknesses of the Tories, as well as the Whigs commitment to reform. However it was popular protest that was the key reason behind the Bill's passage – E.P Thompson claimed that before its passing, "Britain was within an ace of revolution.".
             A fundamental reason behind the passing of this legislation was the industrialisation of Britain. The population of towns and cities throughout the country was growing exponentially – in 1801 Leeds had a population of 53,000, which increased to 123,000 by 1831. The increased concentration of people stimulated a demand for a more representative system. Before this act Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds had no MP between them, yet out of the 406 elected members in the 1831 election 152 were chosen by less than 100 voters, in so-called 'rotten boroughs'. There was a growing realisation amongst the increasing working class that a system that incorporated an improved, more representative system was needed. These large industrial towns wanted the representation of "pocket boroughs" to be transferred to them. From this ideology sprouted movements which had parliamentary reform central to their beliefs – so this factor was important in the sense that the industrialisation triggered an ideology, which increased in magnitude as people realised its importance to them.
             The root of the passing of the Reform Bill lay in a growing sense of impatience and cynicism in what was viewed as a corrupt system. This amounted to popular protest, which epitomised the feeling of unrest felt throughout the country.

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