This paper discusses the development of democracy in England, specifically addressing the interaction between parliament, capitalists, and the masses during the early nineteenth century, and how these interactions lead to a more democratic England; however, the focus will be on entertaining the theory ‘What else could have heralded Democracy during this time?’
Thoughts on a Democratic England
The early nineteenth century saw England at the cusp of a radical change, socially, politically, and economically. The advent of the Industrial Revolution had drastically transformed the mental and physical landscapes of the time; factories were sprouting left and right, people were flooding into the cities to work, and entrepreneurs kept the thriving businesses alive. Gradually the topic of Human rights arose, and cities clamored for representatives in Parliament, while the idea of universal suffrage arose, men voicing out desires to vote in order to improve the condition of life.
As history shows, after much conflict – riots, deaths, political upheavals- the internal tension in the nation gave way to a greater amount of freedom and Democracy among the citizens. But what if these internal forces had not simmered and seethed, causing uproar and promoting change like they did? Would the outcome then have been similar? Let us examine the conditions of the time, and assess whether present forces of that day could have instigated change, as the conflict between social classes did.
The first and seemingly obvious alternative would be a Revolution. During that time –the early 19th Century- the memories of both the French and the Irish (against the English) Revolutions were still fresh in men’s minds; this coupled with the inequities prevalent in the new, Industrialized society, would have galvanized rebellion and caused men to bear arms against the Capitalists who coveted the lion’s share of the profits as well as the Parliament, who denied men representation, votes, and a say in the great scheme of things.
The second alternative would be Education. This was a time when newspaper and the printed page thrived. Aside from news, many works of entertainment were printed in the weekly papers, by writers such as Charles Dickens. The Literacy rate was increasing, and as people were no longer scattered but concentrated in the cities, thus quickening the dissemination of information, the Media could, theoretically, have spearheaded a movement for change.
Inevitably though, these two alternate theories would have eventually coincided with the ideas which opened this paper, namely Social Conflict. For Democracy ultimately dwells in the hearts and minds of men, and, as such, all socio-political and economic movements begin and end in the realm of social strife.