This is a study of popular political behavior both before and after the Great Reform Act of 1832. Historians are divided over the impact of the Act, some heralding it as the dawn of a new age while others have dismissed it as an irrelevance. Phillips's new analysis, firmly grounded on detailed research in a number of provincial boroughs, explores the nature of parliamentary representation in the pre-Reform era and assesses the effects of the 1832 Act. He shows that the unreformed electoral system permitted extensive popular political participation; nevertheless the Reform Act politicized the electorate to a degree not possible or even imaginable before. His book establishes the role of Reform as the catalyst which shaped a new pattern of politics and launched the struggle for parliamentary democracy in Britain.