How Democratic Was Britain by 1928

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How democratic was Britain by 1928? Democracy is a System of government “of the people, by the people, for the people” (Abraham Lincoln). In 1851, Britain was not a very democratic country since the vast majority of its adult population were disenfranchised. However, a number of reforms were passed which gradually helped Britain meet the 7 “hallmarks” of democracy. These include the franchise, a fair voting system, accountability, a choice of party, access to information, a national party system and participation – the right to stand for election to parliament. Historians debate the extent to which Britain had become a fully democratic country by 1928. This essay will argue that whilst Britain was essentially a fully democratic country by 1928, a number of imperfections remained to be addressed within Britain’s democratic system. Arguably, the most important hallmark of a democracy is the franchise. For a country to be democratic there should be universal suffrage – all adults should have the right to vote. Britain was not very democratic in this respect in 1851, since only 1 in 7 men had the right to vote and no women could vote. However, a number of pieces of legislation were passed to extend the franchise. The 1867 Second Reform Act granted the vote to some working class men for the first time and meant that 1 in 3 men could vote. The 1884 Third Reform Act gave more respectable working class men the vote and meant that 2 out of every 3 were enfranchised. The 1918 Representation of the People Act granted the vote to all men over 21 and most women over 30, provided they were householders the wives of householders or university graduates. Finally, the 1928 Representation of the People Act granted the vote to all men and women over 21 on equal terms. However, university graduates continued to have two votes (one in their home constituency and one in their university
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