You Gotta Know These British Reform Movements

Here is a list of ten religious, social, and political movements that have in some way challenged the British government and mainstream British society. All of these movements originated in England, but many were also active in Wales, Scotland, and Ireland. High school quiz bowl players may find that many of these movements come up most often as clues in questions asking about the leaders or institutions that they opposed.

International Context

This list has focused on reform movements that originated in England, but it is important to note that most of these movements had legacies that spread to other countries. John Wycliffe and the Lollards inspired Jan Hus, a Czech religious reformer who was burned at the stake after he was also condemned at the Council of Constance. Groups of separatist and non-separatist Puritans were the first British colonists in New England. Many Luddite and Chartist leaders were punished with “transportation” to Australia. Gold miners rebelling at Australia’s Eureka Stockade in 1854 even drew up a list of demands inspired directly by the English Chartist movement. The free trade ideals espoused by the opponents of the Corn Laws influenced many economists in the United States and other economically developed countries who continue to advocate free trade. The women’s suffrage movement in the United States happened contemporaneously with that in the United Kingdom, and many leaders of both movements corresponded frequently. Most notably, Alice Paul, the leader of the National Women’s Party and the author of the Equal Rights Amendment, joined several WSPU protests while living in Birmingham.

This article was contributed by NAQT editor Kyle Haddad-Fonda.

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