The social evils prevalent in Britain in the 80 years or so before the Great Reform Act in 1832 were universal: no right to vote, seemingly endless overseas adventures purely for the enrichment of the aristocracy, cruel and unusual punishments for minor offences, poor wages, widespread disease and low mortality rates. All of this during a period when Britain was the pre-eminent geopolitical force in the world and the Industrial Revolution was making lots of factory owners obscenely rich.
Historians in Russia and France, and later in Spain, Portugal and Italy, can all fill their boots as they analyse and interpret the momentous revolutions and civil wars that changed the course of history in their countries. Britain’s historians, meanwhile, can only quarrel among themselves, in their brandy-soaked scrofulousness, about the level of danger posed by various types of village disturbances.
The real questions that need to be answered are these: why has there never been a proper revolution in Britain? Why, effectively, did Britain’s poor simply hold up Father Ted placards saying: “Down with this sort of thing”?