Were the Reform Movements of the 1840s successful ?

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thanatassa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The answer here depends on which specific reform movements you are interested in, the country to which you are referring, and what you mean by successful. There were reform movements in this period in both Britain and the United States. Some were geared towards widening the right to vote in the direction of universal suffrage. Others were focused on other aspects of election reform. In Britain, many rotten and pocket boroughs had been eliminated in the 1832 Reform Bill but cities were still under-represented and rural areas over-represented.

In the United States, many different reform movements aimed towards improving quality of life. Two notable ones were the abolitionist movement which aimed to abolish slavery and the temperance movement which aimed to reduce or eliminate the consumption of alcohol. Activists were also concerned with animal rights, human rights, labor conditions, treatment of minorities, and other measures affecting the poor and destitute. 

Many of the goals of the reformers in both countries were eventually completely or partly achieved. Both nations have universal suffrage, slavery has been abolished, labor laws have been amended, and many laws exist forbidding human and animal abuse of the kinds that were prevalent in the nineteenth century. While not all of the goals of these reform movements have been completely attained, they should be judged successful in so far as they did lead to many positive social changes.