Date of Award

Summer 7-26-2019

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Michael Kyle Thompson

Second Advisor

Christopher Childers

Third Advisor

Mark Peterson


The Third Reform Act doubled the size of the British electorate by extending the urban franchise reform of 1867 into the counties. The Act also called for a redistribution of seats in Parliament which eliminated most multi-member constituencies and replace them with single-member constituencies. These reforms changed the political landscape resulting in a more democratic electorate. The twenty years following the Third Reform Act are characterized by a Conservative ascendancy, which saw Conservatives take power and control British politics for the next generation. This Conservative ascendancy was possible because of the increased importance of public opinion in the electoral calculus of British politics. The Conservative party effectively appealed to new voters and formed a broad coalition around maintaining the status-quo, while the Liberal party failed to build a comparable coalition and instead advocated for social reforms that were unpopular outside of faddist pressure groups. The Liberal party split over Gladstone’s support of Irish Home Rule enabled the Conservative party to take power following the 1886 general election and remain the dominant party until 1906.



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