On this day ...
The 1832 Reform Act in the UK (or the English Act and the Irish and Scottish Acts that followed it) was not the end of electoral reform in Britain; it was not, to beg a phrase, even the end of the beginning of Parliamentary reform. But it did do two things - largely abolish the Rotten Boroughs, and increase the electorate to about 20% of the population. I was going to describe this as peaceful change, but of course it was not quite peaceful. There was Peterloo.
And then there was religious fear. In 1829, in response to deep fear of explosive civil strife in Ireland, Roman Catholics were permitted for the first time to stand for election. The non-conformists in their chapels and meeting houses in Birmingham and Manchester were livid; did not they deserve the same rights as the Irish? And so government reluctantly moved in 1832 and enacted the first, slow step to reform that would take a further 96 years to roll out - the final franchise not coming until 1928.
Across the Manche the Kermits also felt outrage. In comparison to our 20% of enfranchised people, barely 1% of the French had the vote. They didn't mess about. In February 1848 they rose up. Forty-two were shot to death by nervous troops and on 23rd February Louis-Philippe abandoned his throne and ran away to England. Thus began the Second Republic (we're now up to the Fifth).
De Tocqueville (a favourite of this blog - I'll give him a post of his own in due course) observed "We are sleeping together in a volcano. A wind of revolution blows, the storm is on the horizon."
Like a forest fire, the events in France in 1848 spread throughout Europe.
What began almost peacefully in the UK (15 died at Peterloo) set the course for change in Europe. That's why they're so worried about Brexit.