The nineteenth century brought changes in British politics which altered the practices associated with political involvement and activity. Successive Reform Acts in 1832, 1867, 1868 (Scotland) and 1884 expanded the electorate. Although the parliamentary franchise remained exclusively male and was based on a property or residency qualification, around 60 per cent of adult men could vote for Parliament by the end of the century. The political map altered, mirroring Britain’s pattern of industrialisation, with more constituencies, reflecting population shifts towards larger urban centres. The two-party system which had been a feature of British politics since the end of the seventeenth century also began to change. Liberals and Conservatives dominated elected offices before the First World War but were challenged by the success of a small number of socialist candidates, particularly at local level. This suggested that party affiliation could no longer be assumed, particularly in urban districts where many working men voted after 1884. Urbanisation also meant that levels of support could not easily be predicted from old allegiances based on familial networks rooted in generations of residency. New electors required courting and canvassing. Votes were now considered as something that had to be won.
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- Women and the Liberal Party
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