The Electoral System and the Party System, 1867–1922
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
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