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Politics and Culture in Victorian BritainEssays in Memory of Colin Matthew$
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Peter Ghosh and Lawrence Goldman

Print publication date: 2006

Print ISBN-13: 9780199253456

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199253456.001.0001

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The Enfranchisement of the Urban Poor in Late-Victorian Britain

The Enfranchisement of the Urban Poor in Late-Victorian Britain

7 The Enfranchisement of the Urban Poor in Late-Victorian Britain
Politics and Culture in Victorian Britain

John Davis

Oxford University Press

This chapter highlights Colin Matthew's first published article as one of his most influential pieces. In his celebrated 1976 essay on the role of franchise extension in the rise of the Labour Party, Colin, writing with Ross McKibbin and John Kay, argued that the then little studied fourth Reform Act of 1918 had, by enfranchising the 30 per cent or so of adult men previously beyond the political pale, provided the impetus for the growth of Labour and the replacement of the Liberals as the party of the left. The authors argued that the bulk of the missing 30 per cent before 1918 were working class. They showed that in the pre-1918 system urban, industrial boroughs had the lowest proportion of their male population registered to vote, and prosperous county towns the highest. The ‘Franchise Factor’ article looked forward into the twentieth-century. Colin Matthew, at least, was much influenced in writing it by the then prevalent view of the steady emergence of class as the basis of political allegiance during the course of the twentieth-century.

Keywords:   Colin Matthew, franchise extension, Labour Party, Ross McKibbin, John Kay, Reform Act 1918, Liberals, Franchise Factor

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