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on 6 October 2013
Well researched and a lively writing style. I will be reading more by Ms Fraser. Grey's monumental achievement strikes wonder again.
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on 19 June 2013
A very readable account of the progress of this important Bill through Parliament. Fraser paints in the necessary background of events, public feeling, institutional culture and the personal qualities of the main protagonists.
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VINE VOICEon 31 March 2015
This book was a disappointment. It dealt mainly with the personalities involved with little background information and no follow up. You are just left hanging. To make sense of the Reform Act ,in my opinion, there must be details of the existing position and not brief mention of the usual cases of Old Sarum etc. Perhaps I expected too much but this book could never be classified as an academic history.
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on 4 March 2015

I do struggle with some of the Authors turn of English in the odd sentence which leaves me wondering what is the point being made.
However, a minor inconvenience over all.
The book is quite detailed and I did get bogged down with the facts given about the numerous actors involved.
Its not an easy read but well worth the effort.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 25 May 2013
Bubbling over with knowledge of the period, Antonia Fraser kindles our interest in what may seem a dry old piece of legislation by relating it to the events and personalities of the day. In a Parliament dominated by aristocrats, even the Whigs' desire to give some political representation to rapidly growing industrial cities like Birmingham was based on a pragmatic aim to avoid public revolt, after the grim precedent within living memory of the excesses of the French Revolution. Any thoughts of universal suffrage or a secret ballot were still the dangerous ideas of the "Radicals". It is startling to discover that the Reform Act only extended the franchise from 3.2% to 4.7% of the population!

Although other reviewers have praised the "novel-like" style of the book, I found the continual digressions into the family connections, appearances and verbatim comments of the main - and some minor - characters quite hard to digest. A glossary would have been really useful. More seriously, these often rambling discursions tended to get in the way of a proper understanding of the three Reform Bills which led to the 1832 Act itself. At no point does the book clearly explain exactly what was in each Bill and why. Neither is there a full explanation of the conditions which made the Reform Act necessary, with an indication of earlier efforts to improve the electoral system. Antonia Fraser's celebrity raises one's expectations, so that it is disappointing that this may also elevate her above being asked to submit her work to a thorough edit.

The book improved for me from Chapter 9, the point where England explodes into widespread riots after the Lords' first rejection of the Bill, largely because of opposition from the Bishops. To think how much ordinary people cared about it, when our latest widespread riots were largely about looting chain stores! Chapter 10 is particularly gripping with accounts of anarchy in Bristol, where soldiers held back out of sympathy for the mob. The official death toll was twelve, "but the number of rioters who died was probably more like 400". In view of some recent media scandals, I was struck by the scurrilous press attacks on the German Queen Adelaide who was thought to have influenced King William IV against reform. The extent of his power is intriguing - he could refuse to create the extra peers necessary to get the Bill passed. Yet, 180 years on, some continue to argue for the maintenance of unelected peers, and appointed lords still occupy key posts in our Government.....
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on 14 October 2014
An very enjoyable book on the history of the Great Reform Bill. Antonia Fraser does an admirable job of describing the personalities and events of this landmark event in British political history. The book gives a very clear picture of what it must have felt like to live through those times.
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on 20 April 2015
A masterly description of how Earl Grey coolly engineered the passing of the Great Reform Bill, out-manoeuvering the Tory opposition and a reluctant King William lV against a background of public disorder and passionate debate, with consummate skill and diplomacy.
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on 21 December 2013
An enthusiastic review caught my eye. I have always known 1832 was a key English date (our history master - see above) and the detail wit and personal portraits wovwn into the complex parliamentary and crown process were a delight.
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on 22 June 2013
This book is interesting as the subject was not covered at school and I think it should have been due to its importance in relation to how we run politics today. Antonia Fraser is an amazing writer from the point of view of the detail she reserches, this can be some what confusing and difficult to follow for long periods of reading. To be honest i have not finished this book, but read it a bit at a time, and read something else to be entertained in between
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on 28 May 2013
I found it a very easy read written in a style which suits me. I suppose that it is well over 70 years since I learned about the reform act at school and then certainly in nothing like so much detail. A very interesting book
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