There may be a civil war, starting in the Midlands. The Birmingham garrison have rough-sharpened their swords and barricades have gone up in the town. Wellington is trying to form a government without a majority. The Duke says 'The English people are usually quiet; if not, there are ways of making them.' These are the Days of May, High Summer of English Reform. The new Whig government has staggered everyone with a reform bill more drastic than all expectations, one to wipe out rotten boroughs and enfranchise industrial towns. It has passed the Commons, been thrown out by the Lords, then, in an election, is massively endorsed. Now in May 1832, the Lords are again blocking it. Political unions formed to promote reform are denounced for Jacobinism and revolution. One Tory, John Croker, hopes that 'the coming revolutionary regime' will let Princess Victoria 'live quietly as Miss Guelph'. King William IV, influenced by the Court and Queen Adelaide, refuses to make new peers; stalemate may turn into street fighting. The struggle is recorded here. The players, painted vividly, speak in their own voices from 170-year-old Hansards- the radicals, Cobbett and Hunt; the Ultras, Wetherell a
Edward Pearce, after 25 years of Commons sketching and political commentary in national newspapers, concentrates on history. After eight briefer, contemporary books, Reform! is the latest of four major studies, following The Lost Leaders (1997), Lines of Most Resistance (1999), and Denis Healy (2002), the widely acclaimed authorised biography.