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Lecture Robert Saunders – Reform, Resistance and Revolution: The Challenge of Democracy in Britain, 1830-1928

April 23 @ 15:30 - 17:00

Over the ‘long’ nineteenth century, Britain experienced a democratic revolution. The monarchy was pushed to the margins of British politics; the House of Lords was stripped of its veto; and the right to vote was extended to all adult men and women. It was a revolution that extended far beyond the state, reaching into every aspect of social and intellectual life. Democracy was not just a system of government; it was an idea, a social class and a new vision of society. It challenged the social order, the gender order, the class system and the economic system, and was itself bent into new shapes in the encounter with other traditions. The battle of democracy was fought, not just in Parliament, but in churches, trade unions, scientific institutes and missionary organisations. Democracy asked new questions of all the great intellectual systems of its day, from Christianity and evolutionary science to imperialism, liberalism, feminism and political economy.

This talk explores the challenge of democracy in Britain, from the Great Reform Act of 1832 to the coming of universal suffrage in 1928. It asks how democracy was understood, how it was practised and how it was shaped by the experience of other countries. It asks what it meant to be an ‘imperial democracy’ or a ‘Christian democracy’; why some parts of the state were democratised but not others; and how democracy engrafted itself on older constitutional ideas. As such, it offers a new history of democracy in Britain, exploring a global idea in a specific national context.

Robert Saunders is Reader in British History at Queen Mary University of London. He specialises in the history of democracy, and his books include Democracy and the Vote in British Politics, 1848-1867Making Thatcher’s Britain (edited with Ben Jackson) and Yes to Europe! The 1975 Referendum and Seventies Britain, which won the 2019 American Historical Association Prize for British History. He has written for The TimesThe GuardianThe EconomistThe New StatesmanForeign PolicyThe Financial Times and many other outlets, and has provided comment and analysis for CNN, BBC Newsnight, BBC Radio 4, Sky News and numerous podcasts. He is currently writing a new history of democracy in Britain.

Please register your attandance with Boris Wesseldijk: b.j.z.wesseldijk@uu.nl, before April 17, 5 pm.


April 23
15:30 - 17:00
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