Great Reform Act

(1646 words)

Historical Context Essay

The need for electoral reform in England had already been recognised by many Whigs and radicals in the 1780s, but the French Revolution in 1789 gave the Tories under William Pitt the reason they wanted to put off change until France had been defeated. When, however, that defeat came at last, the postwar economic crisis, compounded by rapid industrialisation, and by the Corn Law of 1815 which starved the workers to keep landed incomes high, helped to fuel Luddism and other forms of working-class agitation. The violence displayed by the Luddites played into the hands of the conservatives who argued that any reform would lead to “anarchy”. The most salient incident in this sorry history, the “Peterloo Riots” of 1819, led to the …

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Citation:
Clark, Robert. "Great Reform Act". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 22 April 2006
[http://www.litencyc.com/php/stopics.php?rec=true&UID=935, accessed 31 October 2014.]