Sei sulla pagina 1di 2




The UK has some peculiarities that distinguish it from other major European powers: 1. The United Kingdom didnt suffer political upheavals and revolutions of other European countries. Since the revolution of 1688 it was imposed a system of parliamentary monarchy ("The king reigns but does not govern") and the action of multiple governments was characterized by gradually introducing legal and institutional reforms as they were evolving social and economic situations. There were moments of grave social and political tensions but never led to revolutions by the pragmatism of governments. 2. From the eighteenth century the UK was the advocate of the geostrategic theory of continental balance and defended the approach of "splendid isolation": not to be involved in continental affairs except when they jeopardize the continental balance or attack British specific interests. 3. The development of the industrial revolution and the formation of a great empire outside Europe. Throughout the eighteenth century the UK will be building the bases of imperialism: Conquest of Canada, expanding its domain in India, conquest of South Africa, the Mediterranean domain (Gibraltar. Malta, Cyprus...). The need of cheap raw materials, to build markets abroad for the products of its industrial revolution, the need to dominate territory in which to invest its surplus capital marked an aggressive foreign policy in America (supporting the independences processes), Africa and Asia. The rapid population growth allowed a migration flow that first went to the colonies of North America's east coast and after independence from the United States, to the rest of his empire. While other European countries were involved in political and social problems, the United Kingdom got the control of the seas and built an orderly empire. With George III (1760-1820) the royal power suffered a major setback because the independence of the United States. Parliament captured the power of appointment to senior posts. They appeared two political groups that will represent the interests of rich people. The large landowners who had the support of the Anglican clergy were called Tories (Conservatives), while the Whigs (Liberals) stood in representatives of the commercial and urban bourgeoisie. The Prime Minister William Pitt the Younger directed politics between 1783 and 1806. During that time, industrial revolution developed. Ireland lost its Parliament and was annexed to the United Kingdom. There were the first conflicts between the bourgeoisie and industrial proletariat: Luddite movement (workers destroyed machines). With George IV (1820-30) it was an industrial crisis following the end of the Napoleonic wars; and as a consequence, social conflicts. Tory policies of agricultural protectionism and laws against freedom of expression and demonstration gave rise to social protests in the Manchester area. Two young Tory politicians, Palmerston and Peel, initiated reforms: legalization of Trade Unions, the criminal law humanized (habeas corpus and limits to the power of the Government) and the rights of association and assembly were guaranteed. All laws that limited political rights of Catholics were abolished and their public actions were allowed.

With William IV (1830-1837) they were first introduced electoral reforms: Seats in the Commons (Parliament) were assigned giving priority to the urban districts, against rural ones dominated by landowners. In 1831 the electoral census was enlarged and members of the urban middle classes could vote and be voted. In 1833 laws began to prohibit working days over 8 hours for minors and slavery was abolished. Victoria's reign (1837-1901) is the zenith of British power. The permanent criticism of the living conditions of the workers will be the source of the Chartist movement (People's Charter), asking for the secret universal suffrage, parliamentary immunity, annual elections, equal electoral districts. Although in 1838 these demands were rejected in Parliament, it will emerge a strong labor policy group within the British Parliament. In 1842 it was the first general strike in the United Kingdom. Governments responded by abolishing the protectionist agricultural laws and imposing free trade. They implanted a 10-hour workday. The House of Commons won control on the state budget. The most progressive liberal politicians created the Labour Representation League, germ of the future Labour Party and the Fabian Society (socialist ideology). Subsequently voting will be extended to the middle class, farmers and skilled workers.