Victorian Age and Chartists
It was a complex age marked by political, social and religious unrest, but also marked by the technological progress, in which the working class still endured very poor conditions, aggravated by crises in industry and agriculture. Workers’ meetings and demonstrations were common.
The largest organized worker’s movement was that of the Chartists, which, in 1839, presented Parliament with a petition of six points called “People’s Charter” asking for: 1 universal suffrage, 2 vote by ballot, 3 annual Parliament, 4 payments of members of Parliament, 5 abolitions of the property qualification and 6 equal electoral districts.
The Chartists failed, in fact the Charter was rejected three times, but their ideas continued to circulate.
Reform Bills and other social reforms
In the Victorian Age there was a progressive democratization, ruled by the Reform Bills:
The First Reform Bill was passed in 1832: about 150 seats were taken away from the so-called rotten boroughs and given to the new industrial towns. The rotten boroughs were country boroughs, traditionally under the influence of the crown and the nobility, which had the right to send representatives to Parliament; corrupt or rotten because they were bought and sold easily.
Moreover the right to vote was enlarged to great part of the middle class.
In 1867 the Second Reform Bill was passed: it gave the right to vote to the town workers but still excluded agricultural workers and miners.
In 1884 the Third Reform Bill was passed: the right to vote was extended to all male workers, and allowed that many representatives of the working class could enter the House of Commons.
-The Factory Acts which improved the conditions of workers in factories;
-The Ten Hours Act which limited the working hours to ten a day;
-Adoption of the famous English Week;
-The Mines Act forbidding the employment of women and children in mines;
-The Education Act which re-organized elementary education;
-Parliamentary Reform, through the introduction of secret ballot;
-The Emancipation of Religious Sects which allowed Catholics to hold government jobs;
-The Public Health Act which improves public health conditions;
-The Trade Union Act which legalized the activities of unions of workers.