The House of Lords in British politics and society, 1815-1911

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Longman, 1992 - History - 200 pages
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This book is the only up-to-date survey of the history of the House of Lords, and its impact on British politics and society, in the period from Waterloo to the First World War. It shows how the Lords adapted to, and survived, the 'age of reform'; and traces their changing relationship with the House of Commons and the British people at large. It fills an important gap, for the peerage were, and contrived to remain, major actors in the politics of the age. This survey thus illuminates not only the parliamentary and constitutional history of the time, but also, much more widely, the changing character of nineteenth-century Britain itself.
E. A. Smith begins his account with the House of Lords before the 'Great Reform Act' of 1832. Tracing the changing fortunes of the Lords through and after the passage of the Act, he explains how an institution founded on aristocratic privilege and landed wealth, and seeming to embody all that was anachronistic and reactionary, managed to survive into the new era of mass Parliamentary democracy and retain for itself a very substantial influence on, and voice in, the nation's political and social life.
How was it done? This remarkable record of adaptation and survival is shown to have its origins in the period immediately after 1832 when, largely through the influence of the Duke of Wellington, the Lords were induced to accept the new conditions. Radical agitation for the abolition of the House declined accordingly. Moreover, as Dr Smith makes clear, Victorian politics and society remained aristocratic in character despite the extension of the franchise, and even the Liberal and Labour governments of the twentieth century have been reluctant to undertake fundamental reform. Even the Parliament Act of 1911, with the passage and implications of which the main part of the book closes, did not undermine the political foundations of the Lords in the way that is usually assumed; and the House has continued to exercise important functions as a restraining influence on policy and legislation down to our own time.
As the only comprehensive treatment of this important subject, Dr Smith's book will immediately become necessary reading for scholars and students; but its lively and engaging style will also appeal to anyone interested in the development of the British Parliamentary constitution, the survival and adaptation of the British aristocracy, and the changing character of British politics and society before the First World War.

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The Chamber and its Ceremonials
The rebuilding of the chamber

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