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  • The Governing of Britain, 1688–1848: the executive, Parliament and the people
  • Valerie Cromwell
The Governing of Britain, 1688–1848: the executive, Parliament and the people. By Peter Jupp. Pp. xiii, 314. ISBN: 0 415 22949 9; 978 0 415 22949 4. London: Routledge. 2006. £18.99.

It was a great sadness to hear that Peter Jupp had died soon after this, his last book, had been published and sent out for review. It is the culmination of his scholarly lifetime’s research and publication in the field of late eighteenth and early nineteenth century political history. Jupp has provided here a massive general survey of the working of parliament and the executive and of the ways in which they interacted with each other and the public over a period longer than that traditionally known as the ‘long eighteenth century’. More significantly, it covers in detail the ways in which Britain was governed as her position as an international power was transformed into a dominant role. It shows how she was to prove able to fund substantial military involvement in Europe after 1688. This was made possible by successful borrowing and increased taxation accompanied by gradual administrative reorganisation. By taking his story well into the nineteenth century, Jupp also traces the impact of social changes resulting from accelerating industrialisation on government departments and also new parliamentary procedures and the effects of the 1832 parliamentary reform bill on them. It is very much a perceptive account of government at work as monarchical government gradually gave way to ministerial administration and parliament took an ever more significant role.

The book was written as a work of synthesis, which, by taking account of the vast range of recent research and scholarship, provides a most welcome [End Page 351] resource for undergraduates and graduate students seeking an overarching study of British government in the two and a half centuries after the Glorious Revolution. The value of the book lies in the wealth of useful information provided on an enormous number of aspects of governmental activity. The working of the executive is traced from many angles, for instance the changing size of the cabinet, the shift from ministers seeing office as a form of private property to one of a form of public service, the chequered history of the concept of collective ministerial responsibility, and the strengthening of Treasury control over the spending of other government departments as parliamentary pressure grew for improved accounting. The changing role of parliament in relation to the executive is closely analysed as it strove to adapt to new government demands and the pressure for electoral reform. Hardly any aspect of parliamentary life is neglected. The role of parties, the difficulties of parliamentary accommodation, the use of petitioning and growing importance of select committees and many other procedural changes are amongst the more important sections. An attempt is made to indicate how ministerial decisions were taken over the period. Jupp concludes that successive cabinets were mostly preoccupied by issues of the day and offered little encouragement to ministers to encourage long term thinking in their departments which remained largely staffed by clerks till the late 1840s. The impact of pressure groups and the press and the significance of electoral considerations is well covered throughout the period. Jupp emphasises the impact of parliamentary printing at the end of the eighteenth century coinciding with the expansion of the newspaper press which led to much greater public awareness of the work of parliament. Printing of Commons’ division lists in the press grew rapidly until official printing of them began in 1836. Statistical tables on e.g. election results, the staffing of government departments, the number and nature of public and general acts passed and the ratio of the proportion of successful and failed ministerial bills underpin the text.

It is in the main a study of central government: references to Justices of the Peace and to constables are few except in so far as the enforcement of parliamentary legislation is discussed. The role of the country gentry is considered largely in relation to their importance as members of parliament. Municipal reform is mentioned in the context of the reforming climate of...


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pp. 351-352
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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Archived 2009
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