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Participation through petition

By the 18th century, people used their Members of Parliament to raise their problems and concerns with those powerful enough to make changes.

Petitions presented

The most common way people tried to influence Parliament was to present MPs with petitions. They often demanded changes in the law and could be presented by individuals, whole communities or organised groups.

Rapid growth

Demands for change covered subjects such as the abolition of slavery and parliamentary reform. The number of petitions and those participating grew rapidly from the end of the 18th century. In 1839 13,657 public petitions were presented on more than 90 different subjects with a total of over 4.5 million signatures.

In 1843, issues including repeal of the Corn Laws and support for and opposition to the Factories Bill led to a peak of 6,135,050 signatories on petitions to the House of Commons that year.  In 1893/4 a record 33,742 separate petitions were received, on a wide variety of issues including the established Church in Wales, the government of Ireland and control of liquor traffic.

Related information

Learn more about petitioning