British Political Timeline 1815-85 Essay Sample

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1815 – End of Napoleonic wars against France

1816 – Spa Fields Meeting, London – Calls for reform; ended in riots and looting

1817 – Pentridge Rising – Failureof attempt to capture Nottingham castle by unemployed textile workers

The Blanketeers – A march to London by unemployed Manchester workers to present a petition to the Prince Regent; but was broken up by troops

1819 – Peterloo – Meeting in Field, Manchester, to demand parliamentary reform, broken up by force, killing 11 people and wounding many more

The Six Acts – The government makes peaceful protest difficult

1829-30 – Distress in towns and countryside – High poor rates and high unemployment

1829 – Birmingham Political Union founded – Pressure group to focus and lead reform movements, many political unions formed

Roman Catholic Relief Act – Roman Catholics given the right to vote in general elections and stand up for election in the House of Commons

1830 – Many leading London and provincial papers in favour of parliamentary reform

General election returns Tory government – Majority greatly reduced (Wellington PM0; ministry later defeated on civil list vote and Wellington resigns, King asks Grey (a Whig leader) to form a government, Grey becomes Prime Minister

1831-32 – Cholera epidemic hits Britain – Roughly 32,000 people die

1831 – First Reform Bill – Passed Commons by one vote. Parliament dissolved and general election held

General election – Whigs return with majority of 130

Second Reform Bill – Passed Commons easily; but thrown out of Lords, country erupts in violence

Third Reform Bill – Passes easily; but Lords employ delaying tactics, Grey asks King to create pro-reform peers; King refuses, Grey resigns, country erupts in violence, Wellington fails to form a government, Grey back as PM and King agrees to create pro-reform peers, bill passes through Lords

1832 – Reform Bill becomes Reform Act

Parliamentary Reform Act – Makes alterations to the franchise and distribution of seats

General election – 18 per cent of adult males entitled the vote, Whigs return to power

1834 – Tamworth Manifesto – Sets out Robert Peel’s vision for future Conservative Party, Peel becomes PM

1835 – General election – Peel leads a Conservative minority administration

Lichfield House Compact – Combination of Whig, Irish and radical MPs bring down Peel’s government

Municipal Corporations Act – Borough corporations, the body of people responsible for running the boroughs, to be elected annually, establishment of local political clubs and associations

1836 – London Working Men’s Association (LWMA) founded – Founder members were William Lovett, Francis Place, and Henry Hetherington, they aimed to appeal to skilled workers seeking reform

Founding of Reform Club – Formed by Whigs and middle-class radicals to encourage voter registration and dissemination of Whig/Liberal propaganda

1837 – Queen Victoria accedes to the throne – General election

Six points of the ‘People’s Charter’ written – Produced by the LWMA, together with 6 radical MPs

First appearance of the Northern Star – Chartist newspaper printed in leads, and edited by Feargus O’Connor

1838 – Publication of the People’s Charter – Printed in London along with a National Petition for Chartists to sign

London Democratic Association (LDA) founded – A re-branding by George Julian Harney,of the East London Democratic Association (formed in 1837) and intended to be the unskilled workers’ alternative to the LWMA

Mass rallies and meetings – Held throughout the country, many to elect delegates to a National Convention

1839 – Year of action – National Convention met in London, National Convention moved to Birmingham

Bedchamber Crisis – Melbourne offers resignation of Whig ministry, Queen Victoria refuses to swap some of her Whig-leaning ladies of the bedchamber for Conservative-inclined ones; Peel refuses to form a ministry and Melbourne’s Whigs carry on


840 – National Charter Association founded – The Chartist convention in Manchester forms the NCA

and attempts to reinvigorate the movement, Lovett released from prison, Local groups nominate delegates to a general council

1841 – Second Chartist Petition launched – National Association founded by William Lovett as a rival to the more militant NCA, Feargus O’Connor released from prison, NCA agrees to present another petition, general trade depression leads to Chartist support

General election – Peel and the Conservatives have a common majority of about 80 seats

1842 – Presentation of the second Petition to parliament – Chartist convention meets in London, second Chartist Petition rejected by parliament, industrial unrest including the ‘Plug Plot’ riots supported by Chartists, trials of Chartist leaders following their arrest

1843 – Chartist Land Plan established – O’Connor tried in Lancaster, convicted on minor charges and released, Chartist Convention agrees to support O’Connor’s Land Plan to buy land on which to settle Chartists

1846 – Repeal of the Corn Laws – Peel’s Conservative Party splits between Peelites, who favoured repeal, and the majority who did not

1847 – Chartist settlement – First Chartists’ colony (O’Connorville) opened in Hertfordshire, O’Connor elected as MP for Nottingham

1948 – Year of revolutions – Revolution in France, followed by widespread revolutions across Europe. Riots in London, Manchester and Glasgow. Massive Chartist demonstration in London on Kennington Common; third Chartist petition rejected by parliament. Chartist riots in London and Bradford. Chartist land colonies opened in Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire

1850 – Death of Peel – Peelites absorbed into the emerging Liberal Party under, Lord Aberdeen (Peelite) and then Lord Palmerston

1851 – Chartist Land Company closed down – Chartist Convention adopts programme of socio-democratic reform, National Co-operative Land Company wound up, Ernest Jones and George Julian Harney resign from NCA

1852 – Ernest Jones and George Julian Harney in control of Chartism – Last issue of the Northern Star, O’Connor declared insane, Support drifts away as economy revives

Reform Bill brought in by Lord John Russell’s government (Liberal) – Proposed to extend the vote to men living in property boroughs worth £5 a year and in the counties, £10, Radicals opposed the Bill because it didn’t go far enough; others opposed it because it went too far, and so Russell withdrew the Bill

1853 – Reform Bill brought in by Lord John Russell’s government (Liberal) – Proposed to extend to vote to £10 county and £6 borough householders, Bill fell on the outbreak of the Crimean War

1858 Last Chartist Convention held – Agreement made to co-operate with moderates to press for further parliamentary reform

1859 – Reform Bill brought in by the Earl of Derby’s government (Conservative) – Proposed to extend the vote to £10 householders in boroughs and counties, and no redistribution of seats, minority government and Bill defeated in the House of Commons by 39 votes

1864 – Formation of National Reform Union – A mainly middle-class organisation, pledged to fight for household suffrage and redistribution of seats

1865 – Death of Palmerston (Liberal) – Palmerston had been a leading opponent, within the Liberal Party, of further reform

Bad harvest – widespread distress

Formation of Reform League – A mainly working-class organisation pledged to fight for universal manhood suffrage

1866 – Financial crisis – Speculation leads to the collapse of Overend and Gurney, a leading London financial house

Reform Bill brought in by Lord John Russell’s government (Liberal) – Introduced in Commons by Gladstone, proposed to extend the vote to £14 county and £7 borough householders, lodgers paying £10 a year rent, men with £50 savings and to redistribute some seats; Bill defeated by a combination of Conservatives and some Liberals, Government falls

1866-67 – Cholera epidemic – 14,000 people die

1867 – Reform Bill brought in by the Earl of Derby (Conservative) – Introduced to the Commons by Disraeli, who accepts a range of radical amendments, Bill accepted by parliament and becomes law, size of electorate almost doubled to include most of the artisan working-class

Conservative National Union founded – Aimed at uniting all existing Conservative Working Men’s Clubs under one umbrella organisation

Birmingham Education League founded – Founded by Joseph Chamberlain and Jesse Collings to press for universal, secular education, Chamberlain begins to develop the Birmingham Caugus

1868 – General election – Liberal victory

1869 – National Education League founded – Joseph Chamberlain and other radicals press for a system of national, secular education

1870 – Conservative Central Office established in London – John Gorst employed as party manager

Education Act – Increases grant to Anglican Church schools and establishes secular school boards to provide schools in areas where schools previously did not exist

1871 – Trade Union Act – Trade unions given legal status and the right to strike

Criminal Law Amendment Act – Severe penalties for picketing

1872 – Ballot Act – Voting in general elections and by elections becomes secret

Licensing Act – Creates crime of being drunk in public and regulates opening times in public houses

1874 – General election – Conservative victory

1877 – National Federation of Liberal Associations – Founded by Joseph Chamberlain, in Birmingham, with the aim of providing an umbrella organisation and co-ordinating body for all local Liberal organisations pressuring the government to accept their policies

1879-80 Midlothian Campaign – Gladstone attacks Disraeli’s imperial policy as being ‘immoral’, and takes issues directly to his electors

1880 – General election Liberal victory

1883 – The Corrupt and Illegal Practices Prevention Act – Wipes out more severe cases of bribery and coercion

Primrose League founded – Admitted me and women in a hierarchical membership scheme and aimed to promote conservatism and conservative candidates

1884 – The Representation of the People Act (the Franchise Act) – The counties are given householder representation

1885 – The Redistribution of Seats Act – Seats are redistributed more sensibly to reflect the population redistribution

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