Category Archives: Nineteenth century politics

Ireland in the decade before Union

Ireland posed three problems in the period between the 1780s and the famines in the mid-1840s. First, there was the question of how Ireland should be governed. There was also the highly emotive question of the rights of the Catholic … Continue reading

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Why did Corn Law repeal lead to the end of Peel’s government?

Relations between Peel and his backbenchers were strained from the early days of his ministry. Peel was insensitive to their interests of many Conservative MPs and made little attempt to court backbench opinion. He took the loyalty of Conservatives in … Continue reading

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Peel’s ministry 1841-45

Peel is credited with the Conservative victory in 1841: without his leadership, many contemporaries believed that the Tories could have been assigned to permanent opposition. Peel’s parliamentary performance during the 1830s was an important element in this revival. His grasp … Continue reading

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Peel in the 1830s

Peel is generally recognised as the founder of modern Conservatism. He saw the need for the Tory party to adapt itself after its disastrous showing in the 1832 General Election when 175 Tory MPs were elected out of the 658 … Continue reading

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Whig reforms 1832-1841

During the 1833 and 1834 sessions Lord Althorp,[1] leader of the House of Commons, showed that the energy for further reform remained strong. Although ministers sympathised with and even promoted specific bills in general, legislation to improve the condition of … Continue reading

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Whigs and constitutional reform 1830-1835

The Whigs supported the idea of both parliamentary and social reform. When they came to power in late 1830, they put parliamentary reform at the centre of their political agenda and it dominated debate until the Reform Act was passed … Continue reading

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How ‘liberal’ were the Tory governments of 1822-1830?

In the early 1820s, Liverpool made important changes in his Cabinet. Canning became Foreign Secretary after Castlereagh’s suicide and Peel replaced Sidmouth at the Home Office in 1822. Robinson took the place of Vansittart at the Exchequer and Huskisson became … Continue reading

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How did the government react to demands for political reform?

Demands for parliamentary reform began in the final years of the war. In 1812, Major John Cartwright, a radical leader who had campaigned for parliamentary reform since the 1760s, began the first of three tours of the Midlands and North. … Continue reading

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Lord Liverpool and the economy 1812-1822

Lord Liverpool became Prime Minister after Spencer Perceval was assassinated in the lobby of the House of Commons in May 1812. He was the most underrated Prime Minister in the nineteenth century. described later in the century by Benjamin Disraeli … Continue reading

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How did Pitt face the French Revolution between 1789 and 1801?

In 1789, the fall of the Bastille[1] foreshadowed revolution in France. Reactions were mixed in Britain but many people were initially well disposed towards the revolution. Pitt saw political advantages for Britain because it weakened France’s colonial ambitions. Some thought … Continue reading

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Why did Pitt dominate politics between 1783 and 1793?

Pitt was a cautious reformer. In 1785, he unsuccessfully attempted to abolish thirty-six rotten boroughs and transfer their seats to London and the counties, failed to achieve economic union with Ireland and dropped the idea of economic union with America. … Continue reading

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Realigning the Tories and Whigs to 1812

The French Revolution transformed British political life. Between 1790 and 1794, tensions within the opposition Whigs led to division and gradually Pitt remodelled his government. The first split was provoked by the publi­cation in November 1790 of Edmund Burke’s Reflections … Continue reading

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How and why did industrialisation occur in Britain between 1780 and 1850?

In the latter part of the eighteenth and the first half of the nineteenth century, Britain underwent what historians have called an ‘industrial revolution’ with factories pouring out goods, chimneys polluting the air, escalating exports and productivity spiralling upwards. This … Continue reading

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Politics and Religion

How did Britain’s political system work? The United Kingdom, based on a single Parliament at Westminster, was quite new in the 1780s. Wales was united with England by legislation in 1536 and 1542. The Act of Union with Scotland was … Continue reading

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An ‘Industrial Revolution’

Between 1750 and 1850 the British economy experienced a very rapid and, by international standards, pronounced growth in manufacturing. The proportion of the labour force employed in industry, whether in the manufacturing or service sectors increased, and the proportion employed … Continue reading

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