Universal Suffrage in the UK – The Videos

A private soldier’s registration to vote following the passing of the 1918 Representation of the People Act

This is a shameless bit of advertising. I have made my first – and possibly last – foray onto YouTube.

The epochal 1918 Representation of the People Act will have its centenary in February 2018. This Act gave the vote to the majority of women for the first time in the UK. It also gave the vote to a far larger number of men than any other kindred Act. It is right that it should be celebrated. But it should be celebrated as a triumph for the principle of democracy – that the Parliamentary vote is a matter of right, not a matter of wealth.

My concern is that it may be celebrated for the wrong reasons. So my videos are a pre-emptive strike.

Most obviously, nearly half of men did not have the vote prior to 1918. So, whilst it is valid to celebrate the Act because it gave the vote to women, it would be inappropriate to celebrate only that aspect of it.

I suspect it will no longer be possible to hide the fact that most men/boys who died, or were maimed, in World War 1 did not have the vote. But it may still be possible to misrepresent, or downplay, the true motivations for Parliament passing the Act.

I argue in the videos that the wholesale deaths of men in the World War1 trenches was the impetus behind the passing of the Act, due to a wave of egalitarian feeling arising from this slaughter. This is a truth which has been buried.

For those preferring to read the material, a snappy 30,750 words, it’s here.

Linked below is this material in audio form, broken down into 25 manageable parts…

This inks to the whole channel of 25 videos  which will play in sequence.

Alternatively, individual links to the 25 parts are given below,

11 thoughts on “Universal Suffrage in the UK – The Videos

  1. Pingback: My Oxford Talk on the History of Universal Suffrage | The Illustrated Empathy Gap

  2. Pingback: My Presentation at ICMI18 | The Illustrated Empathy Gap

  3. Groan

    For anyone interested there is an article in the latest issue of History Today (the “February” edition) by Fern Riddell. Making the points that the Suffragettes conducted a terrorist bombing campaign on some scale. And charts the way this has been ” sanitised”. So there is much about the women being in Prison but nothing about some of the crimes that they committed. I was surprised myself at the scale of the bombing and arson campaign.

    1. William Collins Post author

      I recommend “The Suffragette Bombers: Britain’s Forgotten Terrorists” by Simon Webb. Great read.

  4. Pingback: Universal Suffrage in the UK | The Illustrated Empathy Gap

  5. AJ

    I have not watched the videos but I have read the material and it is excellant as always.

    One thing you do not mention to undermine the idea that women have been historically oppressed and discriminated against as a class is life expectancy. Women have lived longer than men as long as there has been statistics about it , that is despite the risks of child birth.
    What class of oppressed, exploited people people live longer than than the oppressors and exploiters?

  6. Groan

    Goodness yes a real bringing together of history. As you observe the history is mainly “class struggle” in the sense of an “elite” or “aristocracy” . Much of the discussion of “democracy” tends to project back the current idea . Europe has had many “democracies” over the millennia. But usually with a pretty tight definition of the “demos”. After all even the Holy Roman Emperor had an electorate, as did the “Kings” of Hungary and Poland at various times, so too many Cities and Towns in Italy or northern Europe. Even in the much admired Greek democracies the voting population was a small part of the total population. Anything approaching “universal” is rare indeed before 1900 .

    1. Groan

      If you have a friend that has a copy December’s “History Today” has an interesting piece on the “Womens Social and Political Union” the short lived women’s Political Party set up by the Pankhursts to contest elections. As many will know the Pankursts were very much of their class and the Party was pro empire, pro war (and men doing their duty in the trenches) and very much against the “Bolsheviks” and Socialists. So an interesting corrective to fond ideas of the Pankhursts being SJWs . It draws a link to the recently formed Women’s Equality Party but misses, of course, the obvious similarity in being a party firmly of privileged middle class women being “patronising” in every way. One hopes that the other similarity will be the short lived nature of the Party.


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