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UK Politics: The Reform Acts

            By 1800 Britain was one of only two non-absolutist regimes in Europe (the other being France), though this was good for the people it was not sufficient for the common man. Britain's electoral system was very unfair and led to an oligarchy of rule by the top one percent of the nation's wealthiest aristocrats, or as Gregory King calls them the better sort'. Influenced by the French Revolution the people of Britain became increasingly adamant in their demands for a more representative government. This was achieved in the relatively short period of time of just over fifty-years. Why the Reform Acts of 1832, 1867-1868, 1884-1885 came about, how they expanded suffrage and their effects of each on British politics will be discussed.
             The 1832 Reform Act was a major step towards the realization of a fully representative governing body. It was this driving factor, in the form of unjust voting requirements and unbalanced parliament seat distribution, that led many of the labor class to demand that the laws be changed. Before the 1832 Reform Act was passed only one in ten men could vote, while wealthier counties would receive many more seats in Parliament than poorer, more populated ones. Though the lower class had wanted these changes for quite some time, they did not have an organized platform on which to do so. The organization behind this comes in the late 1820's from the newly emerging and rapidly growing protestant middle class. The motivation behind the middle class joining with the labor class comes not only from wanting a better electoral system, but also from the bitterness created between the middle class and Parliament over the passing of the Corn Laws and the waning economy. Much of the middle class consisted of professionals such as merchants, bankers, lawyers, master craftsmen, shopkeepers and high-end civil servants. These people were effected of the price floor placed on corn.

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