‘The whole Bill and nothing but the Bill’

Over fifty years have passed since I wrote my first tutorial essay in Politics, Philosophy, and Economics (PPE), or Modern Greats, as it was known in Oxford. The subject was the Great Reform Bill of 1832, which for the first time in over a century expanded the right to vote and redrew the electoral map of Great Britain. I had planned to read history, but when I told my history don that I was interested in the nineteenth century – Gladstone, Disraeli, and all that – he shook his head sadly. ‘Ah, my dear boy, that’s current affairs; history at Oxford ends in 1815; you’ll have to read PPE.’ Thus was my fate sealed and the Reform Bill the first subject in my Politics curriculum.

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