Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Home

What Motivates an Oligarchic Elite to Democratize? Evidence from the Roll Call Vote on the Great Reform Act of 1832

  • Toke S. Aidt (a1) and Raphaël Franck (a2)

Abstract

The Great Reform Act of 1832 was a watershed for democracy in Great Britain. We study the vote on 22 March 1831 in the House of Commons to test three competing theories of democratization: public opinion, political expedience, and threat of revolution. Peaceful agitation and mass-support for reform played an important role. Political expedience also motivated some members of Parliament to support the reform, especially if they were elected in constituencies located in counties that would gain seats. Violent unrest in urban but not in rural areas had some influence on the members of Parliament. Counterfactual scenarios suggest that the reform bill would not have obtained a majority in the House of Commons in the absence of these factors.

  • View HTML
    • Send article to Kindle

      To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure no-reply@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

      Note you can select to send to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

      Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

      What Motivates an Oligarchic Elite to Democratize? Evidence from the Roll Call Vote on the Great Reform Act of 1832
      Available formats
      ×

      Send article to Dropbox

      To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

      What Motivates an Oligarchic Elite to Democratize? Evidence from the Roll Call Vote on the Great Reform Act of 1832
      Available formats
      ×

      Send article to Google Drive

      To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

      What Motivates an Oligarchic Elite to Democratize? Evidence from the Roll Call Vote on the Great Reform Act of 1832
      Available formats
      ×

Copyright

Footnotes

Hide All

We thank Ann Carlos and Dan Bogart (the editors), several anonymous referees, Ekaterina Borisova and Roger Congleton, as well as participants at various seminars for helpful comments. Raphaël Franck wrote part of this paper as Marie Curie Fellow at the Department of Economics at Brown University under funding from the People Programme (Marie Curie Actions) of the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP 2007–2013) under REA grant agreement PIOF-GA-2012-327760 (TCDOFT). We are also grateful to the Cambridge Group for the History of Population and Social Structure and the ESRC (Grant RES-000-23-1579) for helping us with shape files for the maps of the ancient counties and parishes. The research was supported by the British Academy (grant JHAG097). Any remaining errors are our own.

Footnotes

References

Hide All
Acemoglu, Daron, and Robinson, James A., “Why Did the West Extend the Franchise? Democracy, Inequality, and Growth in Historical Perspective.” Quarterly Journal of Economics 115, no. 4 (2000): 1167–99.
Acemoglu, Daron, and Robinson, James A., Economic Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2006.
Acemoglu, Daron, and Robinson, James A., “Persistence of Power, Elites, and Institutions.” American Economic Review 98, no. 1 (2008): 267–93.
Aidt, Toke S., and Franck, Raphaël, “How to Get the Snowball Rolling and Extend the Franchise: Voting on the Great Reform Act of 1832.” Public Choice 155, no. 3 –4 (2013): 229250.
Aidt, Toke S., and Franck, Raphaël, “Democratization under the Threat of Revolution: Evidence from the Great Reform Act of 1832.” Econometrica 83, no. 2 (2015): 505–47.
Aidt, Toke S., and Franck, Raphaël. “The Great Reform Act of 1832, United Kingdom.” Ann Arbor, MI: Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor], (2019). https://doi.org/10.3886/E108281V2.
Aidt, Toke S., Daunton, Martin, and Dutta, Jayasri. “The Retrenchment Hypothesis and the Extension of the Franchise in England and Wales.” Economic Journal 120, no. 547 (2010): 9901020.
Aidt, Toke S., and Jensen, Peter S.. “Workers of the World, Unite! Franchise Extensions and the Threat of Revolution in Europe, 1820–1938.” European Economic Review 72 (2014): 5275.
Aidt, Toke S., and Jensen, Peter S.. “From Open to Secret Ballot: Vote Buying and Modernization.” Comparative Political Studies 50 (2017): 555–93.
Ansell, Ben, and Samuels, David. “Inequality and Democratization: A Contractarian Approach.” Comparative Political Studies 43 (2010): 1543–74.
Ansell, Ben, and Samuels, David. Inequality and Democratization: An Elite-competition Approach. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2014.
Austen-Smith, David.Strategic Transmission of Costly Information.” Econometrica 62 (1994): 955–63.
Aydelotte, William O. “The Country Gentlemen and the Repeal of the Corn Laws.” English Historical Review 82, no. 322 (1967): 4760.
Bennedsen, Morten and Feldmann, Sven E.Informational Lobbying and Political Contributions,” Journal of Public Economics 90 (2006): 631–56.
Barker, Hannah. Newspapers, Politics and English Society, 1695–1855. New York, NY: Longman, 2000.
Berlinski, Samuel, and Dewan, Torun, “The Political Consequences of Franchise Extension: Evidence from the Second Reform Act.” Quarterly Journal of Political Science 6, no. 34 (2011): 329–76.
Blaug, Mark, “The Myth of the Old Poor Law and the Making of the New.” Journal of Economic History 23, no. 2 (1963): 151184.
Bohstedt, John, The Politics of Provisions Food Riots, Moral Economy, and Market Transition in England, c. 1550–1850. London, UK: Ashgate, 2010.
Boix, Carles. Democracy and Redistribution. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2003.
Boyer, George. An Economic History of the English Poor Law, 1750–1850. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1993.
Brock, Michael G. The Great Reform Act. London: Hutchinson University Library, 1973.
Bunce, Valerie J., and Wolchik, Sharon L.. “Favorable Conditions and Electoral Revolutions.” Journal of Democracy 17, no. 4 (2006): 518.
Cameron, A. Colin, and Miller, Douglas L.. “A Practitioner’s Guide to Cluster-Robust Inference.” Journal of Human Resources 50, no. 2 (2015): 317–72.
Cannon, John A. Parliamentary reform, 1640𠀓1832. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1973.
Capoccia, Giovanni, and Ziblatt, Daniel. “The Historical Turn in Democratization Studies: A New Research Agenda for Europe and Beyond.” Comparative Political Studies 43, no. 8 (2010): 931–68.
Chenoweth, Erica, and Stephan, Maria J.. “Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict.” International Security 33, no. 1 (2009): 744.
Chenoweth, Erica, and Stephan, Maria J.. Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict. New York, NY: Columbia University Press, 2011 .
Collier, Ruth B. Paths toward Democracy. The Working Class and Elites in Western Europe and South America. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1999.
Congleton, Roger D.From Royal to Parliamentary Rule without Revolution: the Economics of Constitutional Exchange within Divided Governments.” European Journal of Political Economy 23, no. 2 (2007): 261284.
Congleton, Roger D., Perfecting Parliament. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2011.
Conley, John P., and Temimi, Akram. “Endogenous Enfranchisement when Groups’ Preferences Conflict.” Journal of Political Economy 109, no. 1 (2001): 79102.
Crawford, Vincent P., and Sobel, Joel. “Strategic Information Transmission.” Econometrica 50, no. 6 (1982): 14311451.
Dasgupta, Aditya, and Ziblatt, Daniel. “How Did Britain Democratize? Views from the Sovereign Bond Market.” Journal of Economic History 75, no. 1 (2015): 129.
Dincecco, Mark, Federico, Giovanni, and Vindigni, Andrea. “Warfare, Taxation, and Political Change: Evidence from the Italian Risorgimento.” Journal of Economic History 71, (2011): 887914.
Do, Quoc-Anh and Campante, Filipe R. (2009). “Keeping dictators honest: The Role of population concentration”, Governance Working Papers 22076, East Asian Bureau of Economic Research.
Dorsch, Michael T., and Maarek, Paul, “Inefficient Predation and Political Transitions.” European Journal of Political Economy 37, (2015): 3748.
Escott, Margaret, 2009, The Procedure and Business of the House, in Fisher, D.R. (ed.), The History of Parliament: The House of Commons 1820-1832, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK.
Evans, Eric J. Parliamentary Reform, 1770–1918. London, UK: Pearson Education, 2000.
Falkinger, Josef, “Social Instability and Redistribution of Income.” European Journal of Political Economy 15, no. 1 (1999): 3551.
Fisher, David (ed.), The History of Parliament: The House of Commons 1820-1832, Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2009.
Franck, Raphaël, “The Political Consequences of Income Shocks: Explaining the Consolidation of Democracy in France.” Review of Economics of Statistics 98, no. 1 (2016): 5782.
Grossman, Gene M., and Helpman, Elhanan. Special Interest Politics. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2001.
Gundlach, Erich, and Paldam, Martin. “A Farewell to Critical Junctures.” European Journal of Political Economy 25, no. 3 (2009): 340354.
Hammond, J.L., and Hammond, Barbara. The Village Labourer. Stroud, UK: Nonsuch Publishing Limited, 1911.
Hibbert, Christopher, The Grand Tour. London, UK: Thames Methuen, 1987.
Hill, Brian, The Early Parties and Politics in Britain, 1688–1832. New York, NY: Macmillan Press, 1996.
Himmelfarb, Gertrude, The Politics of Democracy: The English Reform Act of 1867. The Journal of British Studies 6, no. 1 (1966): 97138.
Hobsbawm, E.J., and Rudé, George, Captain Swing. Harmondsworth, UK: Penguin University Books, 1973.
Horn, Nancy, and Tilly, Charles, Contentious Gatherings in Britain, 1758-1834. Ann Arbor, MA: Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research ICPSR working paper 8872, 1988.
Jupp, Peter, British Politics on the Eve of Reform, the Duke of Wellington’s Administration. 1828–30 New York, NY: Macmillan, 1998.
Kindleberger, Charles P., “The Rise of Free Trade in Western Europe.” Journal of Economic History 35, no. 1 (1975): 2055.
Kuran, Timur, “Sparks and Prairie Fires: A Theory of Unanticipated Political Revolution.” Public Choice 61, no. 1 (1989): 4174.
Lehmann-Hasemeyer, Sibylle, Hauber, Philipp, and Opitz, Alexander, “The Political Stock Market in the German Kaiserreich — Do Markets Punish the Extension of the Suffrage to the Benefit of the Working Class? Evidence from Saxony.” Journal of Economic History 74, no. 4 (2014): 11401167.
Lizzeri, Alessandro, and Persico, Nicola. “Why Did the Elites Extend the Suffrage? Democracy and the Scope of Government, with an Application to Britain’s `Age of Reform’.” Quarterly Journal of Economics 119, no. 2 (2004): 707–65.
Llavador, Humberto, and Oxoby, Robert J.. “Partisan Competition, Growth, and the Franchise.” Quarterly Journal of Economics 120, no. 3 (2005): 1155–92.
Lohmann, Susanne.Information, Access, and Contributions: A Signalling Model of Lobbying,” Public Choice 85 (1995): 267–84.
Maehl, William Henry. The Reform Bill of 1832. Why Not Revolution? London, UK: Holt, Rinehard & Winston, 1967.
Machin, G.I.T. The Catholic Question in English Politics. Oxford, UK: Clarendon Press, 1964.
Mares, Isabela, From Open Secrets to Secret Voting. Democratic Electoral Reforms and Voter Autonomy. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2015.
McCarthy, Justin, The Epoch of Reform 1830–50. London, UK: Longmans, Green & Co, 1852.
Meirowitz, Adam, and Tucker, Joshua A., “People Power or a One-Shot Deal? A Dynamic Model of Protest.” American Journal of Political Science 57, no. 2 (2013): 478490.
Mitchell, Austin, The Whigs in Opposition 1815–1830, Oxford, UK: Clarendon Press, 1967.
Mitchell, Leslie, The Whig World. London, UK: Hambledon Continuum, 2005.
Mokyr, Joel, The Enlightened Economy: An Economic History of Britain 1700–1850, New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2009.
Namier, Lewis B., and Brooke, John, The House of Commons, 1754–1790. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1964.
Nardinelli, Clark, “Child Labor and the Factory Acts.” Journal of Economic History 40, no. 4 (1980): 739755.
Nardinelli, Clark, Child Labor and the Industrial Revolution. Bloomington and Indianapolis, IN: Indiana University Press, 1990.
O’Gorman, Frank, Voters, Patrons and Parties: the Unreformed Electoral System of Hanoverian England 1734–1832. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 1989.
Philbin, J. Holladay. Parliamentary Representation, 1832, England and Wales. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1965.
Przeworski, Adam, “Conquered or Granted? A History of Suffrage Extensions.” British Journal of Political Science 39, no. 2 (2009): 291321.
Rueschemeyer, Dietrich, Stephens, Evelyne Huber, and Stephens, John D.. Capitalist Development and Democracy. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1992.
Seghezza, Elena and Morelli, Pierluigi. “Suffrage extension, social identity, and redistribution: the case of the Second Reform Act.European Review of Economic History, In Press, doi: 10.1093/ereh/hey007.
Schonhardt-Bailey, Cheryl, “Domestic Determinants of the Repeal of the Corn Laws.” World Politics 43, no. 4 (1991): 545–69.
Schonhardt-Bailey, Cheryl, “Linking Constituency Interests to Legislative Voting Behavior: The Role of District Economic and Electoral Composition in the Repeal of the Corn Laws,” Parliamentary History 13, no. 1, (1994): 86118.
Schonhardt-Bailey, Cheryl, From the Corn Laws to Free Trade: Interests, Ideas, and Institutions in Historical Perspective. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2006.
Stevenson, John, Popular Disturbances in England: 1700-1832. London, UK: Routledge, 1992.
Stooks Smith, Henry. The Parliaments of England. Chichester, UK: Political Reference Publications, 1973.
Thompson, E.P., The Making of the English Working Class. New York, NY: Vintage Books, 1963.
Thorne, R. G., The House of Commons, 1790–1820. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 1986.
Tilly, Charles, Popular Contention in Great Britain, 1758-1834. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1995.
Tilly, Charles, Democracy. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2007.
Trease, Geoffrey, The Grand Tour, New York, NY: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1967.
Trevelyan, George Macaulay, Lord Grey of the Reform Bill: Being the Life of Charles, Second Earl of Grey. New York, NY and London, UK: Longmans, Green and Company, 1920.
Trevelyan, George Macaulay, History of England, 2nd edition. London, UK: Longmans, Green & Co, 1937.
Turner, John D., and Zhan, Wenwen. “Property Rights and Competing for the Affections of Demos: The Impact of the 1867 Reform Act on Stock Prices.” Public Choice 150, no. 3–4 (2012): 609631.
Van de Ven, Wynand P.M.M., and Van Praag, Bernard M.S., “The Demand for Deductibles in Private Health Insurance: A Probit Model with Sample Selection.” Journal of Econometrics 17, no. 2 (1981): 229252.
Ziblatt, Daniel, “How did Europe Democratize?.” World Politics 58, no. 2 (2006): 311–38.
Ziblatt, Daniel, “Does Landholding Inequality Block Democracy? A Test of the” Bread and Democracy” Thesis and the Case of Prussia.” World Politics 60, no. 4 (2008): 610–41.
Type Description Title
PDF
Supplementary materials

Aidt and Franck supplementary material
Online Appendix

 PDF (358 KB)
358 KB

What Motivates an Oligarchic Elite to Democratize? Evidence from the Roll Call Vote on the Great Reform Act of 1832

  • Toke S. Aidt (a1) and Raphaël Franck (a2)

Metrics

Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed