Why did Britain succeed in avoiding the storm of revolution which swept over europe in 1848?
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Britain managed to avoid the Revolutions of 1848 because the British government responded to the protests of the populace and passed laws to satisfy their grievances. This was not done on the continent: there the protests of "commoners" was largely ignored until revolt was inevitable.
For some time, the rights of the aristocracy had been jealously protected by Parliament. A prime example was the Corn Laws which prohibited importation of grains until the price of domestic grain reached eighty shillings per quarter ton. The end result was widespread unemployment and demonstrations which the Tory government attempted to ignore. Later, the House of Commons passed the Reform Bill of 1832, commonly known as
an act to amend the representation of the people of England and Wales.
The House of Lords (the upper House of Parliament) refused three times to pass the bill; which led the Whigs (the opposing party to the Tories) to petition the King to create new peers--members of the House of Lords. The new peers would not be aristocracy or nobility, so the Lords passed the Reform Act rather than see the peerage filled with people of presumably lower classes. The mere threat of creating additional peerages made the House of Lords much more amenable to passing reform acts.
Threats such as this plus the Irish Potato Famine led to the repeal of the Corn Laws which caused grain prices to drop substantially. Parliament also passed the Ten Hours Act which reduced working hours for women and children.
An important factor in these reforms was the Chartist Movement which proposed that all males be given the right to vote, not just those who owned property. The movement failed to secure the vote, but did educate the mass public on the usefulness of mass political demonstrations.
It was Parliament's response--albeit it slow--to the demands of the populace and the reforms that encompassed that reform that allowed Britain to escape revolution. Ironically it was Britain where Karl Marx had anticipated the worker's revolution to begin. Timely action by Parliament prevented this from happening.
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