Effects of the Third Reform Act and the Irish Home Rule Debate on Edinburgh politics, 1885-6
Thompson, Michael Kyle
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This thesis is a study of the effects of the Third Reform Act and Irish Home Rule on the politics of late-Victorian Edinburgh focussing on the general elections of 1885 and 1886. Although the impact on British politics of both the Third Reform Act and the debate on Irish Home Rule have been the subjects of many studies, Edinburgh has hardly featured in this historiography. During this short time, Edinburgh was transformed from a Liberal dominated dual-member constituency to a city represented by four single-member MPs, one of whom was not a Liberal, thus altering the long-standing liberal political tradition of the city. Both the Third Reform Act and the debate over Irish Home Rule created separate and distinct splits in the local Liberal Party of Edinburgh. The Liberal split over Irish Home Rule has attracted some attention, but the split created by the Third Reform Act has been ignored. This thesis helps bridge a gap in nineteenth-century Scottish political history by focussing on Edinburgh; however, it also seeks to highlight the Liberal infighting that took place after the Third Reform Act, but prior to the split over Irish Home Rule. This study draws heavily on the local press, campaign pamphlets and manuscripts of political elites to offer an analysis of the changes that took place upon passage of the Third Reform Act and introduction of the issue of Irish Home Rule. The political rhetoric that emerged during this period focussed on themes within the political tradition of the constituency, questioning the legitimacy of the local Party, and defining Liberalism. These were not unique to Edinburgh and the case study presented here is connected to wider themes within the study of late-Victorian politics.