British Political History Timeline


 The political structure of the British government has not changed dramatically throughout history. There is still a constitutional monarchy with a monarch and a prime minister. The monarch is the head of state while the prime minister is the head of government. However, there has been a shift in the power structure between the monarch and the prime minister. Today the prime minister has the authority while the monarch is more of a figurehead. This transition began in the Victorian era under Queen Victoria's reign. It was during this time that enfranchisement of the people was expanded and Parliament was expanded to include those outside the aristocratic classes. As well, it was in the Victorian Era that the country was at its political and economic peak. In terms of political parties, the Conservative and Labour parties have been the dominant parties since the 1920s.

Following World Wars I and II, Great Britain saw its vast territories decrease. In 1922, Ireland seceded from the United Kingdom while Northern Ireland eventually rejoined Britain. Thus, the United Kingdom became the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Following World War II, Britain lost most of its overseas territories to independence. Having become a world leader as an Allied power, Britain has since joined the international leagues of the United Kingdom, the European Union, and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. It was in the 1980s that the country saw its next economic boom under Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Finally, in 1997 Britain saw the devolution of Scotland and Wales in which both states won their own legislatures with weak taxation powers. Below is a resource guide to important events and concepts of British political history.

Victorian Political History

Corn Laws: background on the 1815 laws that regulated corn prices.

Reform Acts

The Reform Act of 1832: an overview of issues that led up to and the consequences of reforming Parliament.

The Reform Act of 1867: an overview of the voting reform act that enfranchised the urban working class.

The Reform Act of 1884: an overview of the third reform act that expanded the rural vote.

Prime Ministers

Sir Robert Peel: a biography of the prime minister who oversaw great societal overhauls.

Benjamin Disraeli: an overview of the career of one of the most noted Conservative prime ministers in British history.

William Gladstone: this prime minister is most known for his work in Irish home rule, parliamentary reform, and expanding enfranchisement.

Other Figures

Queen Victoria: an in-depth biography of the Victorian era's namesake.

Lord John Russell: a summary of the career of the Whig party member who tirelessly advocated parliamentary reform.

The British Empire and International Relations

British Empire: a listing of former territories, protectorates, and colonies.

History of the British Empire: a site devoted to the British Empire with information on its size, reasons for expansion, art and culture, and more.

International Relations: a guide to the United Kingdom's global foreign policies.

Economic History

Free Trade and Protection: a look at free trade in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Economic Growth: an overview of economic trends in British history from 1688-1959.

British Relative Economic Decline: a report on Britain's use of supply-side economics and its general decline up to the 1970s.

Related Topics

A Resource Guide to Great Britain: a listing of valuable links and resources on all aspects and periods of British history.

British Cultural History: offers new perspectives on British culture and society through the years.

Pre-Nineteenth Century History

18th Century Timeline: a timeline of the major political events and periods in Britain.

The Anglo-Saxons: a look at British history beginning with the fall of the Roman Empire.

Political History

French Revolution: an overview of the impact the French Revolution had on Britain and its political thinkers.

British Policies During the Great Famine: includes information on the Russell Policies, Peel and Corn Laws and their consequences.