MPs and religious affiliation, 1832-68: a research guide

One of the aims of our Victorian Commons blog is to act as a guide to resources for research on 19th century British history. Although our focus is on Parliament and electoral politics, the material which we have listed on our Resources page – most of which is freely available online – will also be of interest to researchers on a range of subjects. It includes biographical dictionaries, Hansard, Acts of Parliament, army lists, trade directories, newspapers, maps and much more.

Having been asked by other researchers what information we have about the religious affiliation of MPs in the nineteenth century Commons, we thought it would be helpful to provide a guide to the resources available on this theme. It was a question in which contemporaries took a keen interest, with the press gathering information and publishing lists, particularly in the wake of general elections.

Report in Manchester Times, 7 Aug. 1852, reproducing information from The Nonconformist

The majority of MPs who sat between 1832 and 1868 were Anglicans, but the following articles, books and resources provide information on those who came from other religious backgrounds.

Baptists

Congregationalists

D. W. Bebbington, Congregational members of parliament in the nineteenth century (2007)

Unitarians

Alderman John Biggs (1801-1871), Mayor of Leicester (1840, 1847 & 1855), possibly by William Scott; Leicester Town Hall; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/alderman-john-biggs-18011871-mayor-of-leicester-1840-1847-1855-81243;
Biggs, a Unitarian, was MP for Leicester, 1856-62

Catholics

  • John. A. Stack, ‘Catholic Members of Parliament who represented British constituencies, 1829-1885: a prosopographical analysis’, Recusant History, 24 (1999).
  • On English Catholic MPs, see also our earlier blog.

Quakers

  • E. Isichei, Victorian Quakers (1970) includes a discussion of Quaker Members of Parliament.
  • Our list in progress of Quakers who sat between 1832 and 1868 is as follows: William Aldam; John Bright; John Ellis; Charles Gilpin; Samuel Gurney; Edward Aldam Leatham; Joseph Pease; Henry Pease; Joseph Whitwell Pease; Jonathan Pim.
Commons Journal, 21 Aug. 1841: William Aldam, MP for Leeds, becomes the second Quaker to take his seat

Other Nonconformists

  • M. Watts, The dissenters, Vol. 2: the expansion of evangelical nonconformity 1791-1859 (1995), contains a significant amount of information on Nonconformist MPs.
  • As part of our House of Commons, 1832-68 project we are compiling lists of MPs of other denominations who sat in Parliament during this period, including Presbyterians and Methodists. So far we have also researched one Swedenborgian (Charles Augustus Tulk, who featured as one of our MPs of the Month) and one Moravian (Charles Hindley).

Jews

  • M. Clark, ‘Jewish identity in British politics: the case of the first Jewish MPs, 1858-87’, Jewish Social Studies, 13:2 (2007), 93-126.
  • M. C. N. Salbstein, The emancipation of the Jews in Britain. The question of the admission of the Jews to Parliament, 1828-1860 (1982).
  • The admission of Jews to the House of Commons was one of the themes featured in the ‘Rebel, React, Reform’ exhibition at University College, London, of which our research fellow Dr. Martin Spychal was a co-curator. Find out more in the exhibition catalogue (pp. 38-43).
Lionel Nathan de Rothschild introduced in the House of Commons on 26 July 1858,
by Henry Barraud (1872). Rothschild was the first Jewish MP to take his seat.

In addition to the material given in our MP biographies on their religious affiliation, our constituency profiles provide information on the different places of worship within each locality, as well as assessing the impact which religious loyalties and religious questions had on the outcome of elections.

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