Wellington and Peel 1832–1846

Part of the Problems in Focus Series book series (PFS)


In the history of the modern British party system, the great divide is the Reform crisis of 1831–2. It is seen even in the nomenclature of parties. Before that date the terms liberal and conservative, though in frequent use as neologisms borrowed from the continent of Europe, indicated only general attitudes. The terms Whig and Tory were the old and well understood party appellations even though many thought that those parties themselves were becoming obsolete. After that date the position was reversed. The borrowed words were within a few years applied to the actual parliamentary parties. The native epithets were used increasingly to denote attitudes and types or, in the case of the Whigs, a social element within a larger political grouping. It was proof of the regeneration of the party political system after 1832 that the general terms current in the post-Waterloo era transferred themselves to specific political parties; the party labels of the eighteenth century only survived as descriptive words for individuals and outlooks. It was in reality not so much a transfer of labels as a readjustment of parties to new concepts with which contemporary society was already growing familiar.


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© Norman Gash, J. H. Grainger, Alfred M. Gollin, Donald Southgate, J. T. Ward 1974

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