Lecture Robert Saunders: Reform, Resistance and Revolution

The painting The House of Commons, painted in 1833 by Sir George Hayter. It shows the British House of Commons commemorating the the passing of the Great Reform Act.
Image: The House of Commons, 1833 by Sir George Hayter, via the National Portrait Gallery. The painting shows the British House of Commons commemorating the passing of the Great Reform Act.

Over the ‘long’ nineteenth century, Britain experienced a democratic revolution that extended far beyond the state, reaching into every aspect of social and intellectual life. In Reform, Resistance and Revolution: The Challenge of Democracy in Britain, 1832-1928, Robert Saunders (Queen Mary University of London) will offer a new history of democracy, looking at democracy from every angle.

A new history of democracy

Democracy was not just a system of government during the ‘long’ nineteenth century, it was an idea, a social class, and a new vision of society. It challenged the social order, the gender order, the class system, and the economic system, and was itself bent into new shapes in the encounter with other traditions. The battle of democracy was fought, not just in Parliament, but in churches, trade unions, scientific institutes, and missionary organisations. Democracy asked new questions of all the great intellectual systems of its day, from Christianity and evolutionary science to imperialism, liberalism, feminism, and political economy.

In his talk, Saunders will explore the challenge of democracy in Britain, from the Great Reform Act of 1832 to the coming of universal suffrage in 1928. He asks how democracy was understood, how it was practised, and how it was shaped by the experience of other countries. He will explain what it meant to be an ‘imperial democracy’ or a ‘Christian democracy’, why some parts of the state were democratised but not others, and how democracy engrafted itself on older constitutional ideas. As such, Saunders will offer a new history of democracy in Britain, exploring a global idea in a specific national context.

About Robert Saunders

Robert Saunders is Reader in British History at Queen Mary University of London. He specialises in the history of democracy, and his books include Democracy and the Vote in British Politics, 1848-1867Making Thatcher’s Britain (edited with Ben Jackson), and Yes to Europe! The 1975 Referendum and Seventies Britain, which won the 2019 American Historical Association Prize for British History. He has written for The Times, The Guardian, The Economist, The New Statesman, Foreign Policy, The Financial Times, and many other outlets, and has provided comment and analysis for CNN, BBC Newsnight, BBC Radio 4, Sky News, and numerous podcasts. He is currently writing a new history of democracy in Britain.

Start date and time
End date and time
Kromme Nieuwegracht 80, room 0.06

Please register by sending an email to b.j.z.wesseldijk@uu.nl by Wednesday 17 April, 17:00. 

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