Britain 1815-1851 - The 1832 Reform Act And The Issue Of Poverty

As part of GCSE History students will look at the period from 1815-1850. One aspect that they will study is the Great Reform Act of 1832 and the issue of poverty at the time.

The Great Reform Act of 1832 amended suffrage to some extent, and provided for some re-organisation of parliamentary seats. However it disappointed radicals, and turned out to be only the first of a whole series of further such acts. Poverty was another issue of the time and in 1834 the Poor Law Amendment Act came in. This led to the foundation of workhouses for those in financial need.

Play this quiz and see how much you know about the Great Reform Act and the issue of poverty in the early 19th Century.

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  1. Which of the following was a leading member of the 1832 body set up to investigate the poor law?
    The investigatory body was bound to attract social reformers who felt that they could make a difference
  2. Which monarch signed the royal assent to the Reform Bill, thus completing its passage into law?
    No bill could become an act until the monarch of the day had signed it
  3. In 1834 a new poor law was proposed, whereby 600 locally elected officials would administer the provisions of the new poor law legislation - including the administration of the new "Workhouses". What title was given to these officials?
    One job for the new office-holders was to ensure that workhouses should impose a harsh, even cruel, regime in order to discourage people from using them - except as a last resort
  4. Which Tory leader was forced to resign as prime minister in 1830, paving the way for the election of a Whig government in 1831, thus leading to the passing of the Reform Bill the following year?
    Changes of government were quite frequent during the crisis over reform. A large number of members of Parliament were only loosely attached to either the Whigs or the Tories
  5. Which French term was applied to the ideology that poverty (and other matters) was not the government's responsibility, and should be left alone?
    This was the view held by many classical liberals: that the role of government was restricted to the defence of the realm, law and order within the state and a few other topics
  6. When the Second Reform Bill was rejected there were outbursts of serious disorder in several places. In one city there were three days of riots, during which the bishop's palace and the Lord Mayor's mansion were destroyed. Which city was this?
    Fear of popular violence partly explains Parliament's decision to pass the Bill. There were indeed serious incidents of violence across the country
  7. What kind of body was set up to look into the workings of the Poor Law in 1832?
    The government appointed an independent body to look at the problem, and to provide recommendations for reform
  8. One aspect of "Old Corruption" curbed (to an extent) by the Act was the existence of parliamentary seats controlled by a local magnate, often a member of the House of Lords. What name was given to such constituencies?
    Gladstone's first parliamentary seat after he came down from Oxford was Newark, which was controlled by a nearby magnate, the Duke of Newcastle. Such notables effectively controlled who became the M.P. and they could manipulate him in their interest after the election
  9. Some seats had tiny electorates. Old Sarum had just 13 voters! Some of these seats were abolished in 1832, but a good many remained until further electoral reform took place. What name was given to such seats?
    A small electorate made it easier for another aspect of Old Corruption to occur, namely "treating", whereby powerful locals were bought drinks by the candidate or candidates in order to influence their votes
  10. Which government decided in 1832 to investigate the working of the poor law?
    By 1832 the issue of poverty had returned to the agenda, as current arrangements did not seem to be working

Author: Edward Towne

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