Happy New Year from the Victorian Commons for 2018

The Victorian Commons would like to wish all our readers a very Happy New Year. Before we resume blogging in 2018, we’d like to highlight some posts you may have missed in 2017.


Lily Maxwell

Our most popular post of 2017 looked at Lily Maxwell, the Manchester shopkeeper who cast a vote at a parliamentary by-election in November 1867, over 150 years before the partial enfranchisement of women as parliamentary voters in 1918. Another of our most-read blogs marked the 150th anniversary of John Stuart Mill’s attempt to include women as voters under the Second Reform Act. Female involvement in elections was one of the themes of our blog on the frequently contested constituency of Peterborough. We will be returning to this subject in 2018 as we take part in the Vote 100 celebrations marking the centenary of some women receiving the parliamentary franchise.

Disraeli’s ‘leap in the dark’ in 1867

The 150th anniversary of the Second Reform Act featured in many of our blogs. Our MPs of the Month included three individuals who played a key part in the debates on parliamentary reform in the 1860s. Hugh Lupus Grosvenor was one of the leading Adullamites who opposed the Liberal ministry’s 1866 reform bill. As Conservative attorney-general Sir John Rolt, a former draper’s apprentice, undertook much of the ‘drudgery’ involved in the successful passage of Disraeli and Derby’s 1867 Act. Meanwhile John Tomlinson Hibbert of Oldham was one of several Liberal back benchers who made important interventions on the Conservative ministry’s measure.

conf pic

Conference at the People’s History Museum, Manchester

We also blogged about the conference organised by the History of Parliament in conjunction with the University of Durham, held at the People’s History Museum, Manchester, and inspired by the 1867 Reform Act and the concept of ‘popular sovereignty’. Our editor Philip Salmon spoke on the political role of non-electors, while Martin Spychal looked at the language of ‘interests’ in nineteenth-century debates about the electoral system. Our assistant editor Kathryn Rix also published a new article on the Act, entitled ‘The Second Reform Act and the problem of electoral corruption’. Another publication from our section this year looked at the 1832 Reform Act: Martin Spychal’s article on Thomas Drummond and the question of parliamentary boundaries appeared in Historical Research.

Thomas Hansard d 1833

Thomas Curson Hansard (1776-1833)

Several of our blogs explored the reporting of parliamentary debate or ‘parliamentary speechification’, as the Spectator dubbed it. As part of the History of Parliament’s contribution to Parliament Week 2017, we looked at Hansard and lesser-known rivals such as the Mirror of Parliament. Charles Dickens was one of the contributors to that publication, and also reported for the press on parliamentary contests, including the 1835 Northamptonshire North by-election, which was one of the inspirations behind his depiction of the colourful and corrupt Eatanswill contest in the Pickwick Papers. With a general election held in 2017, we also had several election-themed blogs, offering a Victorian perspective on issues such as the relationship between local and general elections, and the experience of minority governments.

Tower Hamlets election 1852

The 1852 Tower Hamlets election

Our MP of the Month series continued to show the wide range of individuals who served in Parliament in our period. John Lloyd Davies rose from humble beginnings as a hotel servant to become Conservative MP for the Cardigan Boroughs. We returned to the important question of party loyalty with our blog on Swynfen Jervis, a Liberal MP who defied his party’s whips. Sons of more famous fathers again featured with our biography of William Wilberforce (junior), the son of the prominent abolitionist, who failed to live up to his father’s reputation. Another leading anti-slavery campaigner George Thompson was a highly active platform orator before he became MP for Tower Hamlets, one of the first London MPs to be covered in our project. One extremely important MP whose biography we completed this year was Charles Gilpin, the only Quaker to hold ministerial office between the First and Second Reform Acts. Other MPs were better known for their accomplishments in other fields, including the pioneering photographer Edward King Tenison and the ichthyologist and fossil collector Sir Philip de Malpas Grey-Egerton.

All the draft biographies and constituency articles we are preparing for the 1832-68 project can be accessed for free on our ‘preview’ site – details of how to access and cite our work can be found in these links. You can also sign up to follow our blogs via e-mail or WordPress, follow us on Twitter @TheVictCommons, or follow the new @GeorgianLords project and our other colleagues @HistParl.

We look forward to sharing more highlights from our research with you in 2018. Happy New Year!

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