Reform ActsReform Acts or Reform Bills,in British history, name given to three major measures that liberalized representation in Parliamentin the 19th cent. Representation of the counties and boroughs in the House of Commons had not, except for the effects of parliamentary union with Scotland (1707) and Ireland (1800), been materially altered since the 17th cent. The system was very irregular and greatly restricted the franchise; it failed to take into account the great shifts of population and the growth of new social classes that attended the Industrial Revolution. “Pocket boroughs,” controlled by the crown or large landholders, and “rotten boroughs,” whose populations had declined (the most notorious was Old Sarum, which had virtually ceased to exist) were amply represented. Yet large cities such as Manchester and Birmingham returned no members of their own. Out of a population of about 24,000,000 in the British Isles (including Ireland), only about 435,000 were qualified to vote. Corruption and the sale of seats flourished.
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British Parliament, House of Lords, Reform Act, Reform Bills,in British