About the Birmingham case study

Presentation of the Chartist Petition, 1842.  WOA 4171

Groups from Birmingham have been working with Parliamentary Archives, Parliamentary Outreach and Birmingham Archives and Heritage to look at the history of the right to vote.

This case study looks at Birmingham’s influence on and links with the movement for parliamentary reform in the nineteenth century.  It is the result of the investigations by people living in Birmingham who worked with Parliamentary Archives and Birmingham Archives and Heritage as part of the People and Parliament: Connecting with Communities project.

In the early nineteenth century there was great public appetite for parliamentary reform; the old system was not representative, and only 400,000 people were permitted to vote, around 3% of the population.   

One wave of popular action resulted in the Great Reform Act of 1832.  Although this increased representation by over 60%, to nearly 5% of the population, it did not go far enough for many, and it was disappointment over the 1832 Act that led to the next great movement, that of the Chartists.

Through exploring records held both at Birmingham Archives and Heritage and Parliamentary Archives, the group found that these movements had strong links with Birmingham.  To find out more, please explore this case study and watch the film created by the group, which is available on YouTube. 

A second case study by groups of young people from Birmingham explores the area’s links with the movement for women’s suffrage in the twentieth century.  To see more on this topic, please also have a look at this case study.

A trail was also produced, drawing on the research of both groups, featuring important Birmingham sites in the history of the suffrage movement.