This is a study of popular political behaviour both before and after the Great Reform Act of 1832, the impact of which has long divided historians, some heralding it as the dawn of a new age, others dismissing it as an irrelevance. Professor Phillips has built up an extensive computer database from all available sources of information about early nineteenth-century electors - including for example poll books, tax rolls, and parish records -
thus creating a uniquely comprehensive set of files containing dozens of variables about thousands of voters that permit cross-sectional and longitudinal analyses. Using these techniques, he has undertaken the first systematic consideration of electoral behaviour in eight diverse English boroughs. He
explores the nature of parliamentary representation in the pre-Reform era and assesses the effects of the 1832 Act, and shows that the unreformed electoral system permitted extensive popular political participation. Nevertheless, the Reform Act politicized the electorate to a degree not possible or even imaginable before, and his book establishes the role of Reform as the catalyst which shaped a new pattern of politics and launched the struggle for parliamentary democracy in Britain.
'he is judiciously cautious in extending his findings across the vast spectrum of the electoral system ... he makes a convincing case for the resilience of the unreformed system and the essential continuity of English political development'
Times Literary Supplement
'an illuminating and significant guide to the impact of Parliamentary Reform ... Phillips' researches are thorough; his conclusions are unlikely to be challenged'
Alan Heesom, Durham University Journal, Vol. 86, No. 1 (January 1994)
'the heart of the book comprises five very readable narrative chapters containing accounts of politics in his sample boroughs ... These findings are important.'
Matthew Cragoe, Welsh History Review, Vol. 17, No. 1, June 1994
'He has avoided simplicity, and has written a subtle book. ... a valuable book ...'
John Prest Southern History Vol 15 '93
`based upon a meticulous examination of political behaviour in eight boroughs before and after 1832...thorough study...The arguments are expressed clearly and in a lively style, to make a distinctly useful contribution to the debate on 1832.'
`Phillips expertly uncovers the subtleties and idiosyncrasies of each borough. Phillips does a splendid job with set pieces such as the Bristol riots ... this is an outstanding effort ... The great labor involved in his meticulous research and the clarity of his argument have produced a superb model for future electoral studies.'
Ellis Archer Wasson, Albion, Winter '95
List of Tables; Abbreviations; Introduction: 1832 and All That; PART I. THE PROMISE OF REFORM; 1. Great Expectations; PART II. THE IMPACT OF REFORM; 2. Reform and Reaction: Bristol and 1832; 3. Reform Resplendent: The Political Transformation of Maidstone and Colchester; 4. Reform Act or Reform Era? Political Change in Shrewsbury and Northampton; PART III. THE LIMITATIONS OF REFORM; 5. Reform Redundant: Political Continuity in Lewes and Great Yarmouth; 6.
Reform Retardent: Parliamentary and Municipal Reform in Beverley; PART IV. CLASS, RELIGION, AND REFORM; 7. Reform Refracted, 1: Working and Voting; 8. Reform Refracted, 2: Praying and Voting; Conclusion: The Great Reform Bill?; Bibliography; Index.