Reaction and Reconstruction in English Politics, 1832–1852

Norman Gash

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‘It is a melancholy thought that as soon as reforms are put into practice, disillusionment enters the political scene…’

Norman Gash’s Ford Lectures, originally delivered at Oxford in 1964, address an era of reform that followed the Repeal of the Test and Corporation Acts in 1828, Catholic Emancipation in 1829, and the Reform Act of 1832. The history of this period has often focused on the conflicts that proved necessary before the Acts came to pass. But it was only after 1832 that the real crisis of reform emerged: the clash between what had actually been done, and what men thought should be the consequences of what had been done. As Gash notes of the arguments over the Reform Bill of 1831, “substantially the foundations for the Victorian two-party system were laid by the divisions of politicians into Reformers and Conservatives.”


Norman Gash was born in India in 1912. In 1933 he took a First in Modern History at St John’s College, Oxford. During the Second World War he served in military intelligence and rose to the rank of major. In 1953 he published Politics in the Age of Peel, and after two years at the University of Leeds he was…

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