Democratization under the threat of revolution: Evidence from the great reform act of 1832

Toke S. Aidt, Raphaël Franck

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114 Scopus citations


We examine the link between the threat of violence and democratization in the context of the Great Reform Act passed by the British Parliament in 1832. We geo-reference the so-called Swing riots, which occurred between the 1830 and 1831 parliamentary elections, and compute the number of these riots that happened within a 10 km radius of the 244 English constituencies. Our empirical analysis relates this constituency-specific measure of the threat perceptions held by the 344,000 voters in the Unreformed Parliament to the share of seats won in each constituency by pro-reform politicians in 1831. We find that the Swing riots induced voters to vote for pro-reform politicians after experiencing first-hand the violence of the riots.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)505-547
Number of pages43
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2015
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 The Econometric Society.


  • Democratization
  • Franchise extension
  • Great reform act of 1832
  • Threat of revolution


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