Democratic Reform and Activism (page 659-663) Taylor Gartman

Britain Adopts Democratic Reforms: In the late 1600's, Britain established a constitutional monarchy. The monarch served as the head of state while Parliament held the real power. Parliament is split into two parts: a House of Lords and a House of Commons. The members of the House of Commons are elected by the British people. But voting was limited therefore, the upper class ran the government. During the 1800s, Britain achieved reforms without bloodshed of revolution.

The Reform Bill of 1832: The first group to voice a call for change in politics were the wealthy middle class ( factory owners, merchants, and bankers). In 1830, protests began throughout England to extend suffrage. Parliament feared revolutionary violence, like that of France. Thus, leading to the Reform Bill of 1832. The law eased property requirements so more middle class men could vote. It also modernized voting districts allowing for more industrial cities to have more representation.

Worker Demand Suffrage: The Reform Bill of 1832 only allowed about one in five men to be eligible to vote. Therefore, the press for more rights were pushed by the Chartist movement. Their first demands were written in The People's Charter of 1838 to the Parliament, stating the need for suffrage for all men and annual Parliamentary elections. Parliament rejected the Chartists' demands until 1867 in which then they gave working class men the right to vote and in 1884 male rural workers could vote too.

The Victorian Age: Queen Victoria came into the throne in 1837 at the age of 18. Victoria was popular among her subjects because of her wise and capable decisions. Ever since Queen Victoria, British monarchs have been mainly symbolic rulers with no political power.

Women Demand the Vote: By 1890, several industrial countries had universal male suffrage. No country, however, allowed women to vote. As more men gained suffrage, more women demanded the same.

Organization and Resistance: During the 1800s, women in both Great Britain and the United States worked to gain suffrage. In 1848 American women, Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton campaigned for women's rights at Seneca Falls, using references from the Declaration of Independence to justify their statements. Many believed women's suffrage was too radical a break with tradition.

Militant Protests: In Britain, Emmeline Pankhurst formed the Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU), a militant organization for women's rights. They led peaceful demonstrations, heckled government speakers, and committed arson to draw attention to the cause of women's suffrage. Their efforts had gradual success because women, in Great Britain and the United States, did not win the right to vote until after Word War I.

Democracy in France: While great Britain moved toward true democracy in the late 1800s, the democracy finally took permanent hold in France. However, France's road to democracy was rocky.

The Third Republic: After the Franco- Prussian War, France went through a series of crises. France's National Assembly met to decide on a new form of government. It was not until 1875 the National Assembly agreed that France would become a republic, known as The Third Republic. Between 1871 and 1914, France averaged a change in government every ten months.

In 1871, a radical government called the Paris Commune took control of Paris . Troops loyal to the National Assembly marched in the streets and began fighting the with the followers of the Paris Commune. About 20,000 Parisians were killed and much of the city was burned down.

The Dreyfus Affair: The Dreyfus Affair was a political scandal that divided the Third French Republic from 1894 until its resolution in 1906. The affair is often seen as a modern and universal symbol of injustice, and it remains one of the most notable examples of a complex miscarriage of justice. Captain Alfred Dreyfus, one of the few Jewish officers in the French army was accused of selling military secrets to Germany. He was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison. Yet, a few years later evidence was found that Dreyfus was innocent. The major role played by the press and public opinion proved influential in the lasting social conflict.

The Rise of Zionism: The Dreyfus case showed the strength of anti-Semitism in France and other parts of Western Europe. Russians even organized campaigns of violence against Jewish communities. Jews, in the late 1880s, began to flee for the United States. The long history of exile and persecution convinced Jews that they needed a separate homeland in Palestine. This movement is known as Zionism.

Key Dates:


"We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men and women are created equal" -Elizabth Cady Stanton

Stanton was a leader in the movement for women's right in the United States during the late 1800s. She issued a declaration modeled on the Declaration of Independence. By alluding to the document she was able to draw more attention to the issue.

"J'accuse!" -Emile Zola

Zola published an open letter that denounced the French army for covering up The Dreyfus Affair in 1894. He was given a year of imprisonment for his views, but the letter gave fuse to public opinion on the Assembly's actions. The French government was against Zola because they were mostly compromised by anti-Semitic officials.

"Remember the dignity of your womanhood. Do not appeal, do not beg, do not grovel. Take courage, join hands, stand beside us, fight with us." -Emmeline Pankhurst

Pankhurst established the Women's Social and Political Union, a militant organization that fought for women's rights. She believed that actions would speak louder than words. Therefore, she set up WSPU to draw attention to women's suffrage.

Key Terms and People

  • Suffrage: the right to vote.
  • Chartist Movement: a 19th-century British movement in which members of the working class demanded reforms in Parliament and in elections, including suffrage for all men.
  • Queen Victoria: She was the queen of England for 64 years, one of the longest reigns in history. During the Victorian Age, the British empire reached the height of its wealth and power.
  • Third Republic: the republic that was established in France after the downfall of Napoleon III and ended with the German occupation of France during WWII.
  • Dreyfus Affair: a controversy in France in the 1890s, centering on the trial and imprisonment of a Jewish army officer, Captain Alfred Dreyfus, who had been falsely accused of selling military secrets to Germany.
  • Anti-semitism: Prejudice against Jews
  • Zionism: A movement founded in the 1890s to promote the establishment of a Jewish homeland in Palestine.
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