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The British women's suffrage movement and the practice of petitioning, 1890-1914.

Miller, Henry (2021) 'The British women's suffrage movement and the practice of petitioning, 1890-1914.', Historical journal., 64 (2). pp. 332-356.


Through an examination of the women's suffrage movement, this article reassesses the place of petitioning within late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century British political culture. While critical of their Victorian predecessors’ reliance on petitions, the Edwardian women's suffrage movement did not abandon petitioning, but reinvented it. Rather than presenting a polarized view of relations between suffragettes and suffragists, the article shows how both operated on a spectrum of direct action politics through petitioning. Militants and constitutionalists pioneered new, although different, modes of petitioning that underpinned broader repertoires of popular politics, adapting this venerable practice to a nascent mass democracy. The article then situates suffrage campaigners’ reinvention of petitioning within a broader political context. The apparent decline of petitioning, long noted by scholars, is reframed as the waning of the classic model of mass petitioning parliament associated with Victorian pressure groups. The early twentieth century was a crucial period for the reshaping of petitioning as a tool for political participation and expression through myriad subscriptional forms, rather than primarily through the medium of parliamentary petitions.

Item Type:Article
Full text:(AM) Accepted Manuscript
Available under License - Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives.
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Publisher statement:This article has been published in a revised form in The Historical Journal This version is published under a Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-ND. No commercial re-distribution or re-use allowed. Derivative works cannot be distributed. © The Author(s), 2020.
Date accepted:01 February 2020
Date deposited:23 October 2020
Date of first online publication:23 April 2020
Date first made open access:23 October 2020

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