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Perilous Question: Reform or Revolution? Britain on the Brink, 1832 (2013)

af Antonia Fraser

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1506179,605 (3.83)13
Presents a re-creation of the tempestuous two-year period in Britain's history leading up to the passing of the Great Reform Bill in 1832.
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A charmingly written history of a too-overlooked period in modern political history: the early 1830s debate over the Great Reform Bill, to expand the British electorate and reform the "rotten boroughs." Fraser ably tells the story of this clash, with conservatives fearing that concessions would undermine Britain's timeless constitution and threaten revolution, while reformers thought that Reform was the only way to head off that revolution. (Also covered, to a lesser extent, are the activists who thought that some revolutionary change was just what Britain needed.)

The first parts of the book can feel like one capsule biography after the other, of aristocratic British lords and MPs with a tendency to blend together. But Fraser has a lively pen and an eye for good anecdotes that keep things moving even when the exposition threatens to overwhelm the narrative. Accessible for general history fans as well as specialists, and recommended. ( )
  dhmontgomery | Dec 13, 2020 |
Bit confusing. You can see she's a historical biographer, rather than a full-blown historian, in that there are neat pen portraits of a thousand characters, major and minor, but we are left short on analysis of the underlying issues and there's some lack of clarity about the process of getting the Great Reform onto the statute book. for example, if the Whigs are just as much landed grandees as the Tories, why are they keener on reform? Do they see the storm clouds of revolution more clearly, or are they more idealistic? Or a mix of both? How real was the threat of revolution anyway? What were the people threatening disorder expecting to get: votes for themselves ? ( )
3 stem vguy | Apr 7, 2015 |
The Great Reform Act brilliantly brought to life by Antonia Fraser. The characters and complexities of the reform process are laid out very well and there is a lively pace to the book to maintain interest throughout. ( )
  prichardson | Feb 16, 2015 |
Antonia Fraser's history of the Parliamentary Reform Act of 1832 under William IV — Victoria would become queen five years later — is an excellent prologue to the early Victorian period. (In fact, some historians date the Victorian Era to 1832's passage of the Reform Act rather than to Victoria's ascension five years later.) Fraser does a very good job of making a reader comfortable with the names and identities of parliamentarians with whom contemporary readers might not be too familiar, but at the same time she isn't condescending. I was especially interested in getting a feel for who Lord Brougham was, because he's extensively mentioned in the first volume of Harriet Martineau's Autobiography (but in a way that's very confusing to a reader). As a result of getting a better feel for these pre-Victorian personalities, I may go on to read Martineau's three-volume The Thirty Years' Peace, 1816-1846. ( )
1 stem CurrerBell | Feb 4, 2014 |
Interesting read about the debates and politicing around the reform of voting in the UK in 1832. It's interesting to see how complicated the thinking about it was. Getting rid of some of the rotten boroughs (as parodied wonderfully in the Third Blackadder series); increasing the voting and changing the landscape of UK voting. It was an interesting read and brought forward some of the thinking of some people of the time.

Worth reading to see more of the just-pre-Victorian era. You could see where some of the politics and policies of the Victorian era came from ( )
  wyvernfriend | Jan 18, 2014 |
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'The perilous question is that of Parliamentary Reform,
and as I approach it, the more I feel all its difficulty.'
Earl Grey, 13 January 1831
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The struggle for the Great Reform Bill of 1832 took place at the crossroads of English history.
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Presents a re-creation of the tempestuous two-year period in Britain's history leading up to the passing of the Great Reform Bill in 1832.

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