Author Archives: salmonphilip

Floods, Plagues and the Second Coming: Charles Augustus Tulk MP

Apocalyptic end days, doomsday scenarios and final judgements were prominent features of many people’s religious beliefs in the 19th century, but a few went further, maintaining that the Second Coming had already taken place. Among them was our MP of … Continue reading

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Sir Robert Peel and the modern Conservative party

Today (5 Feb) marks the birthday of Sir Robert Peel (1788-1850), the 19th century prime minister traditionally credited with founding the modern Conservative party. Peel is also subject of a new BBC ‘Prime Properties’ episode – click here to view … Continue reading

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Happy New Year from the Victorian Commons!

For eight years now we have been marking the new year with some highlights from the previous 12 months. The events of 2019 certainly focused attention on parliamentary history and the UK’s constitutional practices as never before. Taking our cue … Continue reading

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MP of the Month: Thomas Neville Abdy (1810-1877) and electoral misconduct

Thomas Abdy’s political career provides a useful reminder of the chicanery, lies and corruption sometimes associated with 19th century English electioneering – venal traditions that became increasingly unacceptable during the Victorian era. Born into a naval family – his father … Continue reading

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MP of the Month: Sidney Herbert – still dancing to Nightingale’s tune

September’s MP of the Month is Sidney Herbert, who was born on this day (16 September) in 1810 and widely expected to become a Victorian prime minister. Fate, however, cruelly intervened, as Dr Ruscombe Foster, the author of an important … Continue reading

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Political Prorogations: a view from the Victorian Commons

It’s been a long time since the business of suspending Parliament and starting a new session has generated so much political controversy. Throughout most of the 20th century prorogations invariably tallied with the expectations of most parliamentarians, neatly book-ending a … Continue reading

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‘Who Do You Think You Are?’ Thomas Jones Phillips (1790-1843): pioneering Tory election agent

If you think some of the recent electioneering tactics that have hit the headlines seem extraordinary, spare a thought for the voters of Monmouth in the 1830s. As a new episode of the BBC’s ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’ … Continue reading

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Political protest in the age of Peterloo

Originally posted on The History of Parliament:
Today’s blog from the editor of our House of Commons 1832-68 section, Dr Philip Salmon, is the first of many pieces in which we will discuss the Peterloo Massacre that took place in…

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Conscience versus constituency: the dilemma facing Henry Sturt MP

The Victorian Commons, as some of our recent blogs have shown, was an important testing ground for many of the practices and parliamentary procedures that remain in place today. It also provides early examples of MPs having to grapple with … Continue reading

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Electoral malpractice and uncivil political speech: the case of Alfred Seymour MP

Our ‘MP of the Month’ blog highlights some themes still fresh in our minds after attending a conference on corruption at Oxford Brookes University. Alfred Seymour (1824-1888) was the younger brother of the better known archaeologist and explorer Henry Danby … Continue reading

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Lord Derby, ‘centre’ parties and minority government

150 years ago the Conservative prime minister Lord Derby retired from office, having managed to pass one of the most significant constitutional reform packages of the 19th century – despite leading a minority government. This post examines the career of … Continue reading

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The role and power of the House of Lords

To mark Parliament Week 2018, our editor Dr Philip Salmon looks at a key element of Parliament which we don’t usually have much opportunity to reflect on in our work on Victorian MPs and constituencies: the House of Lords. Yet, … Continue reading

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MP of the Month: Henry Fawcett (1833-84)

Continuing our recent focus on the personalities and campaigns associated with ‘votes for women’, our MP of the Month highlights the remarkable career of Henry Fawcett, husband of the leading suffragist Millicent Fawcett (1847-1929), whose statue was unveiled in Parliament … Continue reading

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Upcoming event: Victorian Elections & Political Culture Workshop

On Friday 20 April 2018 the Research Centre in Victorian Political Culture, led by Professor Angus Hawkins, will be hosting a workshop on Victorian politics aimed at graduate students in the Jean Robinson Room, Keble College, Oxford OX1 3PG. The seminars … Continue reading

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MP of the Month: John Barton Willis Fleming (1781-1844)

With modern electioneering tactics currently attracting so much scrutiny at home and abroad, our Victorian MP of the Month focuses on a notorious election fixer or ‘boroughmonger’, whose activities increasingly pushed the boundaries of acceptable behaviour. His refusal to answer … Continue reading

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Parliaments and Popular Sovereignty Conference

On 22 March 2018 the History of Parliament will be hosting an event at Westminster featuring 19th century highlights from the recent conference: ‘Parliaments and Popular Sovereignty: Political Representation in the British world, 1640-1886’. This conference was held at the … Continue reading

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MP of the Month: Hugh Lupus Grosvenor, Earl Grosvenor (1825-1899)

Continuing our celebration of the 150th anniversary of the 1867 Reform Act, November’s MP of the Month focuses on one of the most enigmatic figures in the reform crisis of 1866-67, the property-owning magnate and multi-millionaire Hugh Lupus Grosvenor, later … Continue reading

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Reporting Parliament: a view from the Victorian Commons

Today we take it for granted that parliamentary debates are recorded in Hansard. In the Victorian era, however, there was no ‘official’ record. In this blog to end Parliament Week, Dr Philip Salmon shows how, before the advent of modern … Continue reading

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Parliaments and Popular Sovereignty Conference: Manchester

Last week two members of the Victorian Commons project gave papers in Manchester, at a conference held at the People’s History Museum, home to what must surely be one of the UK’s finest collections of political memorabilia associated with mass … Continue reading

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MP of the Month: Sir Philip de Malpas Grey-Egerton (1806-81)

Many of our recent ‘MP of the Month’ posts have focused on self-made men from non-élite backgrounds. Their numbers on the back benches and contribution to the practical business of Parliament (especially in committee) grew dramatically during the Victorian era. … Continue reading

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Minority governments and major change: a Victorian view

For most modern commentators the prospects for minority governments, based on the experience of the last half century or so, don’t look particularly good. Nearly all the recent examples currently being revisited by analysts, such as those of the 1970s, … Continue reading

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Local polls and general elections: a Victorian perspective

As barometers of political opinion, local elections have long had a special place in British politics, offering useful (though not necessarily accurate) guides to national trends. The link between local and national polls, however, has always been complicated. As the … Continue reading

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Call for Papers: conference on ‘Parliaments and Popular Sovereignty’, 3-4 Nov. 2017

Durham University and the History of Parliament are hosting a conference with the People’s History Museum in Manchester, 3-4 Nov. 2017, with support from the Royal Historical Society and Durham University’s Centre for Nineteenth-Century Studies. For further details see below … Continue reading

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Defying the Whip: ‘rebel’ MP of the month, Swynfen Jervis (1798-1867)

One of the themes being explored by the Victorian Commons project is the decline of ‘independence’ in the 19th-century Commons and the rise of party-based voting by MPs – a development neatly captured in Gilbert and Sullivan’s famous lampoon of … Continue reading

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MP of the month: James Barlow Hoy (1794-1843)

As biographies of long-forgotten politicians go, this month’s MP ticks all the boxes, offering an extraordinary rags-to-riches tale, the beginnings of a brilliant political career accompanied by fraud and bankruptcy, and even an allegation of murder. Hoy, or Barlow as … Continue reading

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Petitioning Parliament: two PhD studentships

One of our former colleagues, Dr Henry Miller, has recently secured a major grant to further his work on petitioning, as part of an important new project with Dr Richard Huzzey at the University of Durham. Petitioning has long been … Continue reading

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An ‘upstart from the ranks’: MP of the Month, John Thomas Norris (1808-70)

Norris’s political career illustrates a number of the striking developments being explored in our work on the Victorian Commons, including the ever-expanding number of ‘non-elite’ MPs; the role of town council elections as a stepping stone to Parliament; and the … Continue reading

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MP of the month: Rowland Alston (1782-1865)

Rowland Alston’s career provides a useful illustration of just how diverse (and to a modern eye incongruous) the political outlook of MPs in the same party could be before the development of more formal modern political allegiances. It also serves … Continue reading

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MP of the month: William Pinney and another kind of ‘slavery election’

William Pinney’s career as an MP serves as an important reminder of the legacy of slave ownership in British public life and the very different attitudes to electoral corruption that existed in the nineteenth century, even among radically-inclined Liberals. In Pinney’s … Continue reading

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180th Anniversary of Town Council Elections

This month marks the anniversary of a completely new system of local elections being implemented throughout England and Wales. One hundred and eighty years ago, almost 180 boroughs in England and Wales began to publish the lists of all those … Continue reading

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Goodbye and Good Luck to Dr James Owen!

This month we bid farewell to Dr James Owen, who is leaving the 1832-68 project for a teaching post in the USA. Since joining us in 2009 James has completed over 200 MP biographies and almost 30 full-length constituency articles … Continue reading

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Victorian Political Memorabilia

One of the many eye-openers of this project has been the sheer amount of political memorabilia produced by the Victorians. British politics has of course always been associated with satirical prints and various forms of commemorative art. However, the volume … Continue reading

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MP of the month: Sir Harry Neale and ‘outside interests’

The issue of MPs having ‘outside interests’ is not one traditionally associated with the Victorian period, when all MPs were unpaid and had to fund their own election campaigns, often at vast expense. Victorian MPs, almost ipso facto, had to … Continue reading

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Catholics in the Commons: part 1

As we celebrate Bonfire Night, it is worth reflecting on the anti-Catholicism still faced by Catholic MPs in the Victorian Commons, over two centuries years after Guy Fawkes’s failed attempt to blow up Parliament in 1605. It may seem surprising … Continue reading

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MP of the month: Wyndham Lewis

Wyndham Lewis (1780-1838) is probably best remembered today for bankrolling the future prime minister Benjamin Disraeli’s election to Parliament. Lewis’s wife Mary, an aspiring society hostess with an eye for younger men, had taken a shine to Disraeli and adopted … Continue reading

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MP of the month: Lord Elcho

In the third of our guest blogs, Stephen Lees, one of our leading external contributors and co-editor of the well-known ‘Who’s Who of British Members of Parliament’ volumes, celebrates the career of Lord Elcho, who died one hundred years ago … Continue reading

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The mathematics of Victorian representation: part 2

In an earlier blog on Victorian double-member elections, we looked at the differences between the total vote received by candidates and the levels of support for each party. Put simply, owing to splitting (cross-party voting) and other ‘non-party’ forms of … Continue reading

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MP of the month: John Tollemache and the ‘thraldom of party’

Tollemache is best remembered for his pioneering allotment schemes, which originated the phrase ‘three acres and a cow’, later made popular by the land reform campaigns of Jesse Collings MP and Joseph Chamberlain MP. The allotments with three-bedroom cottages he … Continue reading

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The mathematics of Victorian representation: part 1

In this new series of posts, we look at the Victorian multi-member constituencies that predated the UK’s current electoral system and highlight the mathematical challenges they pose for historians. The first-past-the-post system of electing MPs has long been viewed as … Continue reading

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Project progress: 1,000th article

The 1832-68 project recently passed a major milestone with the completion of its 1000th article. 897 biographies and 106 constituency accounts (comprising over 2 million words) have now been written and are being uploaded to our preview website, which, when … Continue reading

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MP of the month: William Coningham

One of the most striking features of researching Victorian MPs is the extraordinary range of abilities and interests they often possessed beyond the Commons chamber. Previous blogs have highlighted well known figures like William Henry Fox Talbot, the inventor of … Continue reading

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Elections before the secret ballot

This month marks the 141st anniversary of the first use of the secret ballot to elect an MP, at a by-election in the Yorkshire borough of Pontefract. Before the 1872 Ballot Act, and throughout the period covered by our Victorian … Continue reading

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MP of the month: George Faithfull

Continuing our recent focus on Victorian female voters and women’s suffrage, this MP of the month feature highlights the career of George Faithfull (1790-1863), a Brighton radical who clashed spectacularly with his former supporters over the rights of women voters … Continue reading

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The Victorian female franchise

Welcome to the first of our guest blogs. On BBC Radio 4 tonight Dr Sarah Richardson presents a programme about the discovery of an early Victorian poll book listing women voters (click here to listen). Female participation in non-parliamentary elections … Continue reading

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A youthful romance: Tom Lefroy MP and Jane Austen

Last month marked the 200th anniversary of the publication of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, which makes the subject of our Valentine’s Day blog all the more appropriate. One of the more memorable romantic tales involving MPs who sat in the Victorian Commons is … Continue reading

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Wiping the slate: some laws recently repealed

Last week (31 Jan. 2013) saw the enactment of the Statute Laws Repeal Act, a legislative initiative aimed at tidying up the UK’s statute book by repealing a host of obsolete and defunct laws, ranging from the 1500s to the present … Continue reading

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MP of the month: William Hughes Hughes

There are always some MPs who defy convention and become something of an institution in the House. Many are respected, even fêted, for their idiosyncracy. Some though, for one reason or another, find themselves the object of derision and contempt. … Continue reading

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Boundary Changes: the Victorian legacy

The recent report of the boundary commission, remodelling England’s constituency arrangements in line with population movements, serves as an important reminder of the prominent role played by boundary reforms during the nineteenth century. Every extension of the franchise – 1832, … Continue reading

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Parliament destroyed by fire

On 16 October 1834 an immense fire started by the over-zealous burning of waste took hold in the old Palace of Westminster, completely destroying the medieval Commons and Lords chambers as well as the Speaker’s apartments. The largest metropolitan conflagration … Continue reading

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‘Register, register, register!’: political activity in October

In modern politics the month of October is usually dominated by coverage of the major party conferences. In Victorian times, it was the stand-off between the political parties in the voter registration courts, famously immortalised by Peel’s call to ‘register, … Continue reading

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