To What Extent Was Britain A Democracy By 1900 To What Extent was Britain a Democracy by 1900? In order to answer the question: to what extent was Britain a democracy by 1900, we have to first define what a democracy actually is. Features of democracy are: when all adults are able to vote for the party of their choice without fear of corruption, when there is a secret ballot which ensured fair elections, when all parts of the country are represented equally, when each person in different classes of society are allowed their own representatives and when there are a variety of parties which follow differing ideals.
In looking at each of these aspects of democracy we can decide whether or not Britain was a true democracy in 1900. In 1850, only 4% of the entire population of Britain could vote to control who sat in The House of Lords. These were mainly people who owned their own homes or land.This meant that only the upper classes were getting to choose who was representing the country in important matters.
The existence of corruption also complicated matters further as people knew that despite the fact that they were voting for the leader of their choice, there were still people being paid to vote for the party bribing them. This also lead to the overrepresentation of small areas of Britain and the South of England. There were also restrictions on people who could successfully become an MP and since MPs were not being paid large amounts there were few people who wanted to leave their reasonable paid jobs to become MPs. Also the only parties which were available at the time were the Whigs and the Tories who only represented the middle and upper classes which casts doubt on the fact that Britain was on the path to democracy. There were changes to the franchise however between 1850 and 1900 which did indeed lead towards democracy.The percentage of men who could vote increased from 33% to 66%, a massive jump. After 1884, every single adult male was eligible to vote whether they chose to or not.
Because of the Second Reform Act of 1867 the percentage of people in English boroughs increased by 134% but in the smaller counties the increase was a smaller 46%. Despite being eligible to vote many men still chose not to. This was because registering to vote required that they would have to take the day off work without pay and since this was undesirable for many men, they chose to refrain from voting.Even then women and working class citizens were still ineligible to vote. This included the poorest people in Britain who were often disregarded by the British government. In 1872 an act named the Secret Ballot Act was enforced. This meant that people were now required to refrain from making their choice public. This angered many people as they saw their vote as a way to belittle people who were ineligible for the vote and saw the right to vote not as a requirement but a privilege.
This therefore brought about opposition from people who saw their vote as a way to show their superiority. The redistribution of seats between 1876 to 1886 meant that there were more MPs were given to larger towns as well as areas in Scotland which had been without an MP prior to this time. Despite these changes which seemed encouraging at the time this still meant that certain areas in England were still extremely over-represented which displeased many people who wanted to area of the country to be more equal, more democratic. The standard of similar electoral communities also forwarded their way of democracy. The eradication of the property qualification in 1858 meant that owning your own home or a piece of land alone did equip you to become an MP. In 1858 all MPs had to have a substantial income from the land which they owned before they could be elected to be an MP. This made perfect sense at the time because those who wished to become MPs were being paid very little so another income or wage was necessary. This meant that only a few working men could enter the party as Liberals.
There were no MP incomes until 1911. This meant that the social background of MPs were always higher class and therefore supported and worked for the higher classes of the public. This meant that efforts were not entirely democratic as only the upper classes were being represented. The Labour party which supported and worked for the working class was first established in 1900 as a result of more working men being able to vote for the party they wanted to represent their community. Until then, only the higher and middle classes had been represented by the government and many working people disagreed with this concept as the government was not working for them but only for the people who had money anyway.
Until now they working class had no say in the way in which the country had been run, but now, the workers were getting a say in the road of their future.In conclusion I believe that Britain was becoming increasingly democratic as it neared the 20th century but was still no where near being entirely democratic. Two thirds of the adult population still could note vote despite all the changing which had been occurring and this percentage had included men as well as woman. The goverment wa salso still represented mainly by the middle and upper classes and these were the people who had money and werent as concerned as working men when it came to the economy and money. I believe that although Britain was becoming democratic it had still not acheived complete democracy. European History Essays.