Category Archives: Elections

From duelling to sharing the representation: Northumberland’s electoral politics in the nineteenth century

This post first appeared on the History of Parliament blog as part of a local history series on Northumberland’s politics. You can read the other posts in the series here and here. In 1826 Northumberland experienced its first contested election … Continue reading

Posted in Elections | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

‘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

Posted in Constituencies, Elections, party labels, Voting and Divisions | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

From parliamentary reporter to Member of Parliament: Robert Spankie (1774-1842)

January’s MP of the Month takes a look at the unusual pre-parliamentary career of Robert Spankie, who was returned for Finsbury in 1832. A ground-breaking parliamentary reporter during the 1790s, Spankie ascended to the editorship of the Morning Chronicle before re-training as a barrister and serving as a controversial advocate-general of Bengal. Continue reading

Posted in Biographies, Elections, Empire, Images of MPs, MP of the Month, Parliamentary life, party labels, Scotland, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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

Posted in Elections, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Elections and electioneering, 1832-1868

As voters across the country head to the polls this month, we thought it was an ideal opportunity to look back at some of the research on 19th century elections we have featured in our blogs over the past few … Continue reading

Posted in Elections | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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

Posted in Biographies, Constituencies, Corruption, Elections, MP of the Month, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

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

Posted in Biographies, Constituencies, Elections, Legislation, MP of the Month, party labels, religion | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

‘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

Posted in Constituencies, Elections, Wales | Tagged , | 5 Comments

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 Disruption, Parliament and Conservative division: Alexander Campbell (1811-1869)

In May 1843 a schism in the Church of Scotland, better known as the Disruption, led to the creation of the evangelical Free Church of Scotland. It was the culmination of a decade-long conflict over the ability of parishioners to appoint their minister, and wider concerns over state interference with the Scottish Church. April’s MP of the Month is the Conservative MP for Argyllshire, Alexander Campbell, who was one of the founding elders of the Free Church. His ruthless electioneering in Argyllshire from 1836, eventual election in 1841, and failed legislative attempts to prevent the breakup of the Church placed the looming controversy at the centre of parliamentary politics. It also revealed irreconcilable differences between the Conservative Prime Minister Robert Peel and one of his few Scottish backbenchers. Continue reading

Posted in Biographies, Elections, MP of the Month, religion, Scotland | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Anglican clergy and English elections, 1832-37

This week we hear from Nicholas Dixon, of Pembroke College, Cambridge, on clerical influence in the reformed electoral system. It is one of the themes addressed in his PhD, which examines the Church of England’s influence on English politics and society … Continue reading

Posted in Elections, Guest blog | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Corruption at elections in Britain in the 19th century

Following on from Martin Spychal’s blog about the paper he gave at last month’s ‘From “Old Corruption” to the New Corruption?’ conference, organised jointly by Oxford Brookes and Newman Universities, we hear from our assistant editor Kathryn Rix. She gave … Continue reading

Posted in Conferences and seminars, Corruption, Elections | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

Victorian Election Violence Project

We’re delighted to host a guest blog from Dr. Gary Hutchison, Research Associate on the Victorian Election Violence Project at Durham University. Here he outlines the project’s methods and shares some of its preliminary findings. Electoral violence plagues many current … Continue reading

Posted in Elections, Guest blog | Tagged , | 3 Comments

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

Posted in Biographies, Conferences and seminars, Corruption, Elections, MP of the Month, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

Innovation, corruption and bankruptcy: Charles John Mare (1814-1898)

Charles John Mare (1814-1898) was an innovative East End shipbuilder. Thought to be a millionaire when he was returned for Plymouth in 1852, his election proved the apex of his career. He was unseated for bribery in 1853, and declared bankrupt, for the first of four times, in 1855. Continue reading

Posted in Biographies, Corruption, Elections, Images of MPs, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

‘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

Posted in Biographies, Constituencies, Elections, MP of the Month, Parliamentary life, women | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

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

Posted in Biographies, Corruption, Elections, MP of the Month | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

MP of the Month: Andrew Carew O’Dwyer (1801-1877)

Many of our recent posts have focused on the way barriers to the franchise were gradually removed in the 19th century, but it is worth noting that there were also many barriers to becoming a Victorian MP. One of these … Continue reading

Posted in Biographies, Elections, Ireland, MP of the Month | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

MP of the Month: John Moyer Heathcote (1800-1892), the MP who never was

One of our first tasks when we began our 1832-1868 project was to compile a full list of the MPs elected during this period whose biographies we would research. With invaluable assistance from Stephen Lees, who co-edited the later Who’s … Continue reading

Posted in Elections, MP of the Month | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

MP of the Month: George Donisthorpe Thompson (1804-1878)

December’s MP of the Month blog charts the path into Parliament of George Thompson, a self-educated book-seller’s son. As one of Britain’s foremost platform orators he was a major figure in the abolition of slavery in the West Indies and … Continue reading

Posted in Elections, MP of the Month, women, Working-class politics | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

‘A woman actually voted!’: Lily Maxwell and the Manchester by-election of November 1867

Today marks the 150th anniversary of the casting of a parliamentary vote by Lily Maxwell, a Manchester shopkeeper, more than half a century before the partial enfranchisement of women in 1918. On 26 November 1867, at a by-election in Manchester, … Continue reading

Posted in Elections, women | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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

Posted in Conferences and seminars, Corruption, Elections | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

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

Posted in Constituencies, Elections, Legislation, Publications | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Party Affiliation in the Reformed Commons, 1832-68

As the election results were declared in each constituency at this month’s general election, they were swiftly collated by the media to give an assessment of the overall balance of power within the new House of Commons. With each candidate’s … Continue reading

Posted in Elections | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

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

Posted in Elections, Parliamentary life | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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

Posted in Constituencies, Elections, Local government | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Five elections in seven years: Peterborough, Whalley and the Fitzwilliam interest

With suggestions of election fatigue setting in across Britain, this week’s blog – featuring our MP of the Month, George Hammond Whalley – looks at a constituency which saw five elections held in seven years between 1852 and 1859: the … Continue reading

Posted in Elections, MP of the Month | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

‘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

Posted in 1832-68 preview site, Constituencies, Corruption, Elections | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

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

Posted in Biographies, Constituencies, Corruption, Elections, MP of the Month | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

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

Posted in Elections, Local government | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

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

Posted in Constituencies, Elections | 1 Comment

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

Posted in Constituencies, Elections | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

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

Posted in Constituencies, Elections | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

MP of the Month: Sir Robert Juckes Clifton

Next to the Wilford toll bridge, on the Trent embankment near Nottingham, stands a statue of Sir Robert Juckes Clifton (1826-1869). The life-size sandstone statue, which was once described by the Strand magazine as having ‘the worst sculptured trousers in the kingdom’, … Continue reading

Posted in Elections, MP of the Month | Tagged | 1 Comment

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

Posted in 1832-68 preview site, Biographies, Constituencies, Elections | Leave a comment

Parliament Week 2013: Women in Democracy

To mark Parliament Week 2013, the theme of which is ‘Women in Democracy’, we would like to share some of our recent research highlighting the varied nature of female participation in British political life during the nineteenth century, despite the … Continue reading

Posted in Elections, women | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

A Victorian paradox explained: popular candidates with no votes

To campaign for a seat in the House of Commons, only to find that no one has voted for you, is something that must haunt the imagination of any aspiring MP. In the 1850s this fate befell two controversial politicians … Continue reading

Posted in Elections | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Book review: By-elections in British politics, 1832-1914

A review of By-elections in British politics, 1832-1914 (edited by T. Otte and P. Readman), to which Philip Salmon and Kathryn Rix have both contributed chapters, has just been published by Reviews in History. Our earlier blog giving details of … Continue reading

Posted in Elections, Publications | Tagged | Leave a comment

Elections after the secret ballot

Following on from Philip Salmon’s recent post about elections before the secret ballot, you can now see Kathryn Rix’s post on the main History of Parliament blog about the first poll under the 1872 Ballot Act, held at Pontefract 141 years … Continue reading

Posted in Elections | Tagged | Leave a comment

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

Posted in Constituencies, Elections, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

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

Posted in Elections, MP of the Month | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Democracy in Devon: exhibition at the Devon Heritage Centre

Welcome to the second of our guest blogs, which coincides with an exhibition running at the Devon Heritage Centre. Organised by Dr. David Thackeray, of the University of Exeter, the exhibition demonstrates the vitality of popular participation in nineteenth century … Continue reading

Posted in Elections, Guest blog | Tagged , | 4 Comments

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

Posted in Elections, Guest blog, Local government, women | Tagged , , , , | 5 Comments

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

Posted in Biographies, Constituencies, Elections | Tagged | Leave a comment

American presidential elections: the view from the Victorian Commons

Today marks the climax of one of the closest and hardest fought American presidential elections in history. The contest between the Democratic incumbent Barack Obama and his Republican challenger Mitt Romney has been copiously covered by the British press, reflecting … Continue reading

Posted in Biographies, Elections | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Politics and poetry: a blog post for National Poetry Day 2012

The declaration of the result of the poll following a contested election could sometimes be a violent event. James Walker, the newly returned MP for Beverley in January 1860, suffered ‘a good many hard knocks’ when his procession away from … Continue reading

Posted in Elections | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Cabinet reshuffles and ministerial by-elections in the 19th century

Following last week’s Cabinet reshuffle, several ministers will be getting to grips with the challenges of their new departments. However, unlike the nineteenth century, they are at least spared the extra burden of seeking renewed endorsement from their constituents. Under … Continue reading

Posted in Elections | Tagged | Leave a comment