Ireland was ruled directly from Westminster throughout the nineteenth century. This had been the case since the Act of Union, 1800. Often, however, the UK Parliament passed special laws which would apply only in Ireland.

The words 'suffrage' and 'franchise' mean 'the right to vote.'

The right to vote was a privilege and responsibility for those who held property and had an 'interest' in the state. Wealthy people might have several votes or even 'own' a seat in the House of Commons. Titled men (peers) inherited seats in the House of Lords.

Between 1430 and 1832 the right to vote in England was based on the amount of property an individual held. Married women could not hold property, but if widows and unmarried women qualified on property grounds, they could vote.

People cast their votes in public until the Secret Ballot Act, 1872.

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