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The Transformation of Legislative Elites: The Cases of Britain and Germany since the 1860s

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Drawing on databases going back to the middle of the nineteenth century, this article examines how changes in the opportunity structures in political recruitment have influenced the socio-economic backgrounds and career patterns of British and German MPs. Extending opportunity structures enables legislatures to respond to socio-economic changes in society, but there may be a significant time-lag before they are reflected in the legislature. In spite of significant differences in their political history, there has been a convergence of socio-economic backgrounds and career patterns, driven largely by changes in the opportunity structures, which, particularly in the German case, preceded the full impact of changes in political culture. This convergence does not preclude significant differences, but these are principally the product of particular factors, such as party and electoral systems, and changes do not necessarily occur simultaneously, but the tendency towards similar educational and occupational backgrounds and similar career patterns remains.
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Keywords: Britain; Germany; Political recruitment; opportunity structures; political culture; socio-economic background

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2001-09-01

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