The Referendum in Britain: A History

Matt Qvortrup, Andrew Blick, Lucy Atkinson

    Research output: Book/ReportBookpeer-review


    The European Union referendum of 23 June 2016 proved to be the trigger for the most prolonged period of political turbulence in the peacetime history of the UK; leading to major policy changes and realignments in the party-political system.

    This book considers from an historical perspective the democratic device that provided the focus for this upheaval. Beginning in the late nineteenth century, it discusses how the idea of using referendums to resolve major political disputes first came onto the agenda, and why. It considers who advocated it, and in what circumstances. The book describes how referendums eventually came into use from the 1970s onwards, and the different patterns in their deployment in the decades that have followed. Major political figures, from Herbert Henry Asquith and Winston Churchill to Clement Attlee, Harold Wilson and Margaret Thatcher; to Tony Blair, David Cameron, and Boris Johnson form part of the story. Governments have come to power and fallen in the context of demands for referendums or the results they produced.
    Original languageEnglish
    Place of PublicationOxford
    PublisherOxford University Press (OUP)
    Number of pages256
    ISBN (Print)9780198823612
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2020


    • Referendums
    • British politics
    • Brexit referendum
    • British History
    • Politics


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