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The Romantic Period

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The Romantic Period

In 1789 Europe was shaken by the French revolution. Poets and intellectual saw it as the triumph of truth and light. There were also other types of thought. In fact Edmund Burke pointed to the dangers of democracy without an aristocratic leadership. Against the power of kings and aristocracy there was Thomas Paine who wrote a book and had to escape in France. William Pitt's attitude to the Revolution was unemotional. He continued his financial reform and reduced corruption, he taxed luxuries and repaired the national debt. He tried also to abolish import duties and signed a treaty with France.

People reacted with social unrest with riots, marches and protest. Poor people were angry and many wanted a fairer system of government. To calm this riots Pitt acted drastically and imposed restrictive measures like the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act and the repression against the radical organizations (combination act). In 1793 Britain became a war with France and Admiral Howe and Nelson defeated it in the Battle of the Nile and in the Battle of Trafalgar, where Nelson defeated Napoleon. Then Napoleon won against the Austrians and the Russians and decided to block British isles to isolate British trade.

But he committed a fatal error deciding to ht in Russia where he was defeated. So Britain increased its power and after the Congress of Vienna decided to remain in a position of relative neutrality and it will continue for about a century. In this period the mob protest for two events: with Industrial revolution machines increased but also unemployment increased and this caused an increase in crime; moreover with the Corn law the price of corn became high and the bread very expensive.

Protest of the mob were repressed and many people died and were wounded in the "Peterloo Massacre".

The 1820s are the years of reforms and in particular, trade unions were legalized and Catholic Emancipation Act was issued. With this act also Catholic can sit in Parliament.

Britain Parliament was divided in Whigs, Tories and Radicals and was dominated by the upper classes. Whigs want moderate change, Tories don't want change, Radicals want social and electoral reform. Under the rule of William IV, Reform Bill was issued. With this reform also middle class entered in Parliament and the new industrial towns could elect their own Member of Parliaments.

But lot of people disapproved the Act because, an example, the vote was based on property. For this reason people constituted the Chartist movement. It was introduce a law to spot children from working more than twelve hours a day and the prison system was also reformed thanks to Robert Peel.


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