The demand for parliamentary reform was however partially met with the succession of William IV (1830-37) to his brother George IV, heirless. A Whig government came to power after a long period of Tory hegemony, thus supporting some important reforms:|
" the First Reform Bill (1832) which led to a more equal and representative distribu-tion of Parliamentary seats. The rural areas (country boroughs) had lost a lot of workers moving to the towns but they still had representatives in Parliament, who were easily bought by nobility and the Crown: they were called "rotten-boroughs", that is corrupt (rotten=marcio). The Bill took away 150 seats from the rotten bo-roughs and extended the right to vote to the urban middle-class men, thus under-mining the great power of the landed aristocracy.
" The Factory Acts (1802 e 1819) by which the employment o children under nine was forbidden by law and the working day was limited to 12 hours for women and children.
" The abolition of slavery in the British colonies (1833)
" The introduction of a system of national education (1834)
The Whig government also passed the Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834.
Based on the Protestant and Puritan attitude of considering poverty a fault, a consequence of people's failings, vice and indolence, the Act provided help to the poor only against their employment in well-regulated workhouses.
Here, though, conditions were intolerable, inferior to those of the humblest workers outside and the inadequacy of this Act was demonstrated in the following years.
WOMEN The problems of the time also affected women, who experienced both the advantages and the disadvantages of the situation. On the one hand, working-class women were often forced to take jobs in factories where they were exploited with lower wages.
In the upper and middle classes, where they had no need to work, they devoted to French, music and dancing and spent their leisure time by reading, gossiping and looking for husbands. Some women took to writing domestic novels, while others devoted themselves to humanitarian activities.
Humanitarianism in fact became increasingly widespread, mostly due to the anti-slavery campaign of Sir William Wilberforce; the most conspicuous result of the latter was the abolition of slavery in 1833.
When William IV died in 1837, the Britain inherited by Queen Victoria was a country still torn by great internal conflicts and with many unsolved problems, but already ahead of any other European country in the industrial process and in the field of social reforms.
The succession of William IV:
The First Reform Bill of 1833:
With the Factory Acts of 1802 and 1819:
The Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834: