The Electoral System and the Party System, 1867–1922

  • Alan R. Ball


Recent British political history shows a high degree of continuity and an absence of sharp breaks with the past. This is particularly true with regard to the development of party structures and the party system in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The period after 1867 saw important political changes in the British party system accompanied by extensive reforms in the electoral system, but it is difficult to fix these changes by an exact date. It is perhaps tempting to cling to the dates of significant legislative reforms: the four major Reform Acts of 1832, 1867, 1884 and 1918 and, equally important, the Secret Ballot Act of 1872, the Corrupt Practices Act of 1883 and the Redistribution of Seats Act of 1885. Certainly, the parliamentary legislation of the 1880s makes those years crucial in the evolution of the party system. Yet each of these reforms has its seeds in a previous formative period and the results of the reforms were neither immediate nor clearly detached from other important changes in the nature of the political system.


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Notes to Chapter 1

  1. 1.
    See T. Lloyd, ‘Uncontested Seats in British General Elections, 1852–1910’, Historical Journal, vol. 111, no. 2, 1965, pp. 260–5.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    See N. Blewett, ‘The Franchise in the UnitedKingdom 1885–1918’, Past and Present, vol. 32, 1965, p. 32.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    A. K. Russell, The Liberal Landslide: The General Election of 1906 (Newton Abbot: David &: Charles, 1973) p. 19.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    See F. B. Smith, The Making of the Second Reform Bill (Cambridge University Press, 1966).Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    H. C. G. Matthew et al., ‘The Franchise Factor in the Rise of the Labour Party’, English Historical Review, vol. 91, no. 361, October 1976, pp. 723–52.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    See D. Morgan, Suffragists and Liberals (Oxford: Blackwell, 1975) p. 149.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    See M. Pugh, Electoral Reform in War and Peace 1906–18 (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1978) pp. 131–43.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    T. Lloyd, The General Election of 1880 (Oxford University Press, 1968) p. 133.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    N. Blewett, The Peers, the Parties and the People: The General Elections of 1910 (London: Macmillan, 1972) pp. 372 and 375.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    P. F. Clarke, ‘Electoral Sociology of Modern Britain’, History, vol. 57, 1972, p. 32.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    There was a change in 1907 which allowed more lodgers to vote, known as the ‘latch-key’ decision; see M. Pugh, The Making of Modern British Politics 1867–1939 (London: Blackwell, 1982) p. 15.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    See H. Pelling, The Social Geography of British Elections, 1885–1910 (London: Macmillan, 1967) p. 9.Google Scholar
  13. Also M. E. Chadwick, ‘The Role of Redistribution in Making of the Third Reform Act’, Historical Journal, vol. 19, no. 3, 1976, pp. 665–83.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. 15.
    See J. Cornford, ‘The Transformation of Conservatism in the Late 19th Century’, Victorian Studies, vol. 40, no. 7, 1963, p. 55. See also Blewett, The Peers, the Parties and the People, pp. 22 and 378.Google Scholar
  15. 16.
    J. P. D. Dunbabin, ‘Parliamentary Elections in Great Britain, 1868–1900: A Psephological Note’, English Historical Review, vol. 81, 1966, p. 91.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Alan R. Ball 1987

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alan R. Ball
    • 1
  1. 1.Portsmouth PolytechnicUK

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