The Conservative and Liberal parties were very different from their ancestors, the oligarchical eighteenth-century factions of Tories and Whigs. The Conservatives kept their old electoral following among country gentlemen, army and navy officers, and Anglican clergymen, but they added many new supporters among agricultural laborers, tradespeople, and even some of the urban working and white-collar classes.
Modern Empires and Imperialism
Britain emerged from the Napoleonic wars with an executive composed of a prime minister and his cabinet of ministers who were wholly under the control of Parliament.
In the years immediately after Waterloo, Britain went through an intense postwar economic crisis. Unsold goods accumulated, and the working classes experienced widespread unemployment and misery.
Popular suffering increased as a result of the Corn Law of 1815, which forbade the importation of cheap foreign grain until the price of the home-grown commodity rose to a specified level. This assured the profits of the English grain farmer and probably raised the cost of bread for the average English family.
In the Nineteenth Century one Western democracy led all others—Britain. At its height Britain possessed the greatest empire the world has ever seen. Nineteenth-century Britain grew into a Greater Britain, and its domestic history was inextricably bound up in imperial history, as foreign affairs were yoked to economic and industrial developments.