This paper suggests a new approach to analyzing the causes of franchise extension. Based on a new dataset, it provides a detailed econometric study of the Great Reform Act of 1832 in the United Kingdom. The analysis yields four main results. First, modernization theory receives limited support. Second, the reform enjoyed some measure of popular support. Third, the threat of revolution had an asymmetric impact on the voting behavior of the pro-reform Whigs and the anti-reform Tories. While the threat might have convinced reluctant reformers among the Whig politicians-and among their patrons-to support the bill, it seems to have hardened the resistance to reform among the Tories. Fourth, ideology played a critical role. Nevertheless, it also appears that self-interest and political expedience explained the votes of many Members of Parliament.
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Acknowledgements We thank Omar Al-Ubaydli, Roger Congleton, Mark Gradstein, Hans Pitlik, James Robinson and David Samuels for helpful comments. Raphaël Franck gratefully acknowledges financial support from the Adar Foundation of the Economics Department at Bar Ilan University. The usual disclaimer applies.
- Franchise extension
- The Great Reform Act