The Victorian Commons would like to wish everyone a very Happy New Year. Before we resume blogging for 2015, we’d like to highlight some posts you may have missed in 2014.
One of our most popular blogs from 2014 featured MPs noted for their longevity. Among them was Lord Elcho, who holds the record for the MP who survived the longest after his first election to the Commons – almost 73 years. Elcho was also the subject of one of our ‘MP of the Month’ posts. Another ‘MP of the Month’ was our most popular new post of the year: Lord Adolphus Vane-Tempest, described by one historian as ‘a syphilitic alcoholic wastrel’.
Looking back at our other ‘MPs of the Month’, some common themes emerge. The complexities of party allegiance in the Victorian period were discussed in our posts on John Tollemache and Sir Robert Clifton. The diversity of extra-parliamentary interests pursued by MPs was evident in the biographies of the naval commander Sir Harry Neale; the Wexford railway and harbour developer John Redmond; and the cotton spinner John Cheetham. Maritime safety was a theme close to the hearts of George Palmer, a pioneer of lifeboat design, and Aaron Chapman, who was closely associated with Trinity House, which oversaw Britain’s lighthouses. While many of the MPs we are researching in this period continued to come from landed families, there were a significant number of self-made men with more humble origins, among them the carpet manufacturer William Wood, of Pontefract, and Disraeli’s friend, Wyndham Lewis, who began his career as a solicitor’s clerk. Another new group entering the Commons after 1829 were Roman Catholics.
Alongside our work on MPs’ biographies, we are carrying out research on constituencies and elections, and we gave an update on the constituency articles now available through our preview site. We have also blogged about elections in Essex, and the mathematics of Victorian pollbooks.
Our blogs have also provided an opportunity to look at some of the more light-hearted aspects of Victorian parliamentary life, including how MPs spent their holidays; whether the Commons should meet on Derby Day; political poetry; and a failed attempt to smuggle a set of bagpipes into the Commons chamber.
To keep up to date with the project’s progress in 2015, please feel free to follow our blog, or you can find us on Twitter: @TheVictCommons. All our draft articles can be accessed on our preview site. Happy New Year!