The period of 1830-1931 saw gradual yet largely significant governmental reforms which led to an extension of the franchise from 500,000 to around 21 million. Prior to 1832, Britain’s franchise composed of a selective elite of the landowning class, however the 1832 reform act, although a disappointment in the extent of what it achieved, paved the way for further reform as it brought people together in rebellion (the Bristol Riots). This proved that popular pressure had the potential to be very successful in orchestrating parliamentary reform. The influence of pressure from outside parliament was certainly a major vehicle for generating improved representation and greater democracy in Britain, particularly due to the legacy of the French Revolution which caused concern in the government who were worried that it would give impetus to the British to remove power from the aristocracy and monarchy. However other factors also played a significant role in stimulating change such as the work of individuals and rivalry between the political parties themselves.
The role of popular pressure in bringing about improved representation and greater democracy in Britain was both extensive and diverse. The movements involved the working and middle class and the methods used varied from violence to peaceful protest. The predominantly middle class Suffragette movement was well known for its radicalism.
The campaign for the female franchise had been slow in progress since the 1860s. However in 1903, when Emmeline Pankhurst set up the WSPU (Women’s Social and Political Union), campaigners of women’s suffrage were offered an alternative method of protest- ‘Deeds not words’. The Suffragettes’ destructive behaviour was effective in achieving media attention and aroused discussion about gender inequality within society, ‘they kept the suffrage