The House of Lords in the Age of Reform, 1784-1837: With an Epilogue on Aristocracy and the Advent of Democracy, 1837-1867

The House of Lords in the Age of Reform, 1784-1837: With an Epilogue on Aristocracy and the Advent of Democracy, 1837-1867

The House of Lords in the Age of Reform, 1784-1837: With an Epilogue on Aristocracy and the Advent of Democracy, 1837-1867

The House of Lords in the Age of Reform, 1784-1837: With an Epilogue on Aristocracy and the Advent of Democracy, 1837-1867

Excerpt

The period between the accession of the younger Pitt to office in December 1783 and the death of William IV in June 1837 has a genuine unity in the history of the House of Lords. The earliest years of Pitt's first Administration have, it is true, something in common with the preceding era, and the issues with which he was first confronted in foreign politics, in India, and in Ireland were an inheritance from his predecessors; but the outbreak of the French Revolution involved new and tremendous problems and ushered in an age of wars and of bitter conflicts both at home and abroad. At the same time great economic changes were taking place in Great Britain, in her industrial organization, in the rapidity of increase, and in the distribution, of her population. Economic changes were, as always, productive of social changes. The middle classes in the growing manufacturing and trading towns became more numerous and more prosperous; extremes of wealth and poverty were more pronounced, and the country tended more and more to be divided into the 'two nations' of which Disraeli wrote in Sybil . English life and thought were affected in innumerable ways by the French Revolution and by the economic developments in her own midst, and also by the great disturbances inevitably produced in finance, in commerce, in industry, by the prolonged strain of the wars with France. Few of our national institutions remained unaffected by all these momentous happenings, and the House of Lords was not immune.

But whereas in the history of the new national developments 1789 is a more noteworthy date than 1784, in the history of the House of Lords Pitt's accession to power marks the real turningpoint. No other single individual has exercised so great an influence as he upon the personnel of the Chamber. Within the . . .

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