The 1832-68 House of Commons project includes studies of every constituency – more than 400 – in England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Since beginning our research in 2009, we have completed over 100 constituency articles. Around 4,000 to 6,000 words in length, each one provides a detailed but accessible analysis of every parliamentary election in this period, alongside a summary of each constituency’s social and economic makeup. Borough entries also contain related information about local government. In a new departure for the History of Parliament, we are making these studies available in draft form on a preview site, as they are completed.
Draft articles recently uploaded include:
Nottinghamshire North, Nottinghamshire South and East Retford. Described by The Times in 1851 as ‘the most aristocratic county in England’, Nottinghamshire’s two county divisions, alongside its agricultural borough East Retford, have frequently been characterised as under the domination of the tyrannical landowner the 4th duke of Newcastle. However, our work has revealed the limitations of proprietorial influence after 1832, particularly in Nottinghamshire North, where the success of the Conservative member Thomas Houldsworth, a self-made cotton entrepreneur from humble origins, deeply alarmed the increasingly insecure duke of Newcastle.
Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire. A leading port, commercial centre and ancient seat of learning, Aberdeen was given separate representation by the 1832 Scottish Reform Act. Its contests reflected religious divisions within liberalism between the Free Church party and their opponents, until 1857, when the Liberal party reunited, enabling them to hold the seat without a contest for the remainder of the period. The representation of the wider Scottish county, famed for its granite and Aberdeen Angus cattle, was initially dominated by the Hamilton Gordon family, earls of Aberdeen, until the mid-1850s, when the heir of the Peelite prime minister Lord Aberdeen was returned as a man acceptable to all parties.
Knaresborough. One of England’s smallest boroughs in terms of its electorate, Knaresborough’s representation fluctuated between the two major parties. After the Conservatives were defeated in 1837, they sought to bolster their position on the register by dividing fields in order to create ‘cow-house’ votes (a cumulative qualification based on the value of different buildings and land holdings). The 1852 election witnessed an unusual triple return when three candidates shared the same number of votes.
Mallow. ‘Probably the most famous spa town in Ireland’ by the late 18th century, Mallow became unfashionable in this period, losing out to English competition. Its representation was dominated by the Whig Sir Charles Jephson Norreys, the leading proprietor. After a short-lived victory for the Repeal party was overturned in 1833, Norreys’s sympathy for reform enabled him to retain the seat until 1859. A clerical revolt against Norreys led to a brief period of Conservative ascendancy, before the Liberals regained control.
We have now uploaded over 60 constituency studies to the 1832-68 preview site, which can be consulted in full (and for free). For details about how to obtain access, please click here.