Reform Bills

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The Reform Bill of 1832 widened the parliamentary franchise by extending the vote to include the rich middle classes, and removed some of the inequalities in the system of representation by redistributing members of Parliament to correspond with the great centres of population. The Bill was introduced by Lord John Russell (1792–1878) in 1831, and carried in 1832. The Reform Bill of 1867, which more than doubled the electorate, extended the franchise to include many male members of the industrial working class, and the Bill of 1884 took in (with the exception of certain categories, i.e. lunatics, convicted criminals, and peers) all males over 21. In 1872 voting by ballot was introduced. Women over 30 were enfranchised in 1918; and women over 21 received the vote in 1928. (See also Women's Suffrage.) In 1969 an Act was passed which lowered the minimum age of all voters to 18. The question of Reform is a principal theme in many Victorian novels, notably in G. Eliot's Middlemarch and Felix Holt.

Subjects: Literature.

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