Category Archives: Constituencies

‘The power of returning our members will henceforth be in our own hands’: parliamentary reform and its impact on Exeter, 1820-1868

This week Dr Martin Spychal, research fellow for the Commons 1832-68, uses polling and voter registration data to explore the 1832 Reform Act’s impact on elections in Exeter. This blog was originally published on the History of Parliament blog as … 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: William Tooke and the royal charters of the University of London

Following our blogs on the creation of the University of London constituency in 1868 and its first MP, Robert Lowe, August’s MP of the Month is William Tooke. As MP for Truro from 1832, Tooke worked tirelessly to secure a royal charter for the London University (later University College London) in order that it could grant degrees to its students. 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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The representation of Devon and Cornwall after reform, 1832-68

Last week the History of Parliament and the Devon and Cornwall Record Society hosted a conference at Exeter on ‘The South West and Parliament’. Dr Martin Spychal of the Victorian Commons spoke at the event, and today provides an overview of … Continue reading

Posted in Biographies, Conferences and seminars, Constituencies, Corruption, Elections, Parliamentary life, party labels, Uncategorized, Voting and Divisions, women, Working-class politics | 4 Comments

The University of London, representation and the 1867 Reform Act

Last week, as part of UK Parliament Week, we held a special event with the University of London to mark the 150th anniversary of the university returning its first MP to parliament. At the 1868 general election all University of … Continue reading

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‘So much for the behaviour of the first assemblage of gentlemen’: views from parliament by a Devonshire Tory

Our Victorian MP of the Month is the Conservative MP for Devonshire South, Montagu Parker. His correspondence with his mother between 1835 and 1841 provides a fascinating perspective on life at Westminster. Montagu Edmund Newcombe Parker (1807-1858) is best known … Continue reading

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The 1868 Boundary Act: Disraeli’s attempt to control his ‘leap in the dark’?

Originally posted on The History of Parliament:
This year marks the 150th anniversary of the 1868 Boundary Act. As Martin Spychal of the Commons 1832-68 Section discusses in today’s blog, the oft-neglected story of the Act provides several key insights…

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Some parallels: the 1832 and 2018 boundary reviews

To celebrate the recent open-access publication of his article ‘‘One of the best men of business we had ever met’: Thomas Drummond, the boundary commission and the 1832 Reform Act’, our Research Fellow on the 1832-1868 project, Dr Martin Spychal, … 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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‘Fighting, swearing, drinking, and squabbling’: Charles Dickens, Eatanswill and the 1835 Northamptonshire North by-election

Today’s blog marks the anniversary of Charles Dickens’s birth by exploring the inspiration behind one of the most notable political events in his first novel. Dickens’s riotous description of the Eatanswill borough election in the Pickwick Papers, first published in July … 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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A family affair: the Knightleys and Northamptonshire South, 1832-1868

The double-member county division of Northamptonshire South is often associated with the Spencer family, most notably Viscount Althorp (later the third Earl Spencer and older brother of Princess Diana’s great-great-grandfather), who played a key role in the reforming ministry of … 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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A Victorian Essex Election

As electors go to the polls in the Clacton by-election, we consider how Essex voters behaved in the mid-nineteenth century, when the expanding seaside resort was still part of the Essex North constituency. In the fifty years following the 1832 … Continue reading

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Constituencies recently added to our preview site (2)

The 1832-68 House of Commons project includes studies of every constituency – more than 400 – in England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Between 4,000 to 6,000 words in length, each study provides a detailed but accessible analysis of every parliamentary … 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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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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Christmas is a time for giving: Victorian MPs and the festive season

In Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol, first published in 1843, Scrooge’s nephew describes Christmas as ‘a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time’. For many Victorian Members of Parliament, ‘kind’ and ‘charitable’ giving at Christmas was an important part of their role … 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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Constituencies recently added to our preview site

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 … 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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Happy New Year from the Victorian Commons!

As 2013 begins, the Victorian Commons blog would like to wish all its readers a very Happy New Year! We’re looking forward to a new year of blogging, but in the meantime, here are some of our highlights of 2012. Our … 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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New article on Thomas Attwood and the Birmingham School in latest issue of Parliamentary History

My article ‘Radicals, Tories or monomaniacs?: The Birmingham currency reformers in the House of Commons, 1832-67’ has just been published in the latest issue of Parliamentary History, 31 (2012), pp. 354-77. The article grew out of research for the 1832-68 … Continue reading

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Brothers in the Victorian Commons

This week, as the Labour party conference gets into full swing in Manchester, much of the media’s focus will fall on Ed Miliband, and whether he has the necessary qualities to become Prime Minister. Inevitably, discussions of his character will … Continue reading

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Constituencies available on our preview site

The 1832 Reform Act completely redrew the electoral map of Britain and Ireland. It removed many small corrupt boroughs and gave representation to growing industrial towns such as Manchester, Birmingham and Leeds. However, small towns and county seats remained the … Continue reading

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