Dr Martin Spychal

Research Fellow mspychal@histparl.ac.uk


I joined the History of Parliament as a research fellow on the 1832 – 1945 project in January 2016. I am currently researching biographies of MPs and constituencies in London, Devonshire, Cornwall and Scotland. I have previously completed work on MPs and constituencies in Northamptonshire and Dorset. I co-ordinate the History of Parliament’s academic engagement activities.

Research and Publications:

I completed my PhD at the Institute of Historical Research in 2017. My first monograph, Mapping the State: English boundaries and the 1832 Reform Act, is forthcoming in the Royal Historical Society’s New Historical Perspectives series. Offering a major reassessment of the 1832 Reform Act, my book provides the first sustained analysis of the reconstruction of England’s electoral map in 1832 and its impact on politics at Westminster and in the constituencies.

My research interests include:

  • the evolution of the political nation and its significance to modern British society and culture
  • the electoral and non-electoral impact of the 1832 Reform Act, and the evolution of Britain’s electoral map to the present day
  • the networks of power and legislation that developed around political, professional and social institutions in nineteenth-century Britain

My papers and publications include:

– FORTHCOMING: Mapping the state: geography, representation and the 1832 Reform Act (Royal Historical Society, New Historical Perspectives);

– ‘Martin Spychal – Reappraising England’s reformed electoral map, 1832-1868’, Politics Before Democracy, UEA, April 2023

– Campaigning for the Ballot: the parliamentary men and women behind the cause, Voting reform 150 years on from the 1872 Ballot Act, September 2022

– ‘To banish or revive? The ghost of Namier and the future of modern British political history’, Does British Political History have a future?, Queen Mary, London, July 2022

– ‘Constituencies, policy and representation: a roll-call analysis of the United Kingdom’s reformed electoral map, 1832-68’, IHR Parliaments, Politics and People Seminar, March 2021;

– ‘The Life of Sir Robert Peel – a re-assessment’, Oxted & District History Society, March 2021;

– J. Rivington, M. Spychal, K. Syrett, ‘Documentary Narrative’, in D. Cannadine (ed.), A Question of Retribution? The British Academy and the Matter of Anthony Blunt (Oxford, 2020);

– “One of the best men of business we had ever met’: Thomas Drummond, the boundary commission and the 1832 Reform Act’, Historical Research, 90, 249 (2017) [Open Access, proxime accessit 2015 Pollard Prize];

Book Review, E. Gillin, The Victorian Palace of Science: Scientific Knowledge and the Building of the Houses of ParliamentParliamentary History, 38 (2019), 303-5;

– ‘The representation of Devon and Cornwall after reform, 1832-68’, The South West and Parliament, Exeter, May 2019

– ‘Resisting corruption through science: the ‘spirit of inquiry’ and the establishment of the 1831-2 boundary commission’, From “Old Corruption” to the New Corruption?, Oxford, January 2019;

– ‘A balancing Act? The language of interests, representation and parliamentary reform, 1815-1832’, Parliaments and Popular Sovereignty Conference, Manchester, November 2017;

– Book Review, A. Howe & S. Morgan (eds.), The Letters of Richard Cobden. Volume IV: 1860-1865Parliamentary History, 36 (2017), 268-270;

– ‘Constructing the reformed Commons: the 1831–2 English boundary commission and the 1832 Reform Act’,  Making Parliaments, Building Constitutions Conference, ICHRPI, London, June 2015;

– ‘‘the county-mongering clause’: The Times, the division of counties and the 1832 Reform Act’, Politics Before Democracy Conference, UEA, Norwich, April 2014;

– ‘Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? The Times, accountability, and the Metropolitan Police 1829-1830’. Institutions, IHR Annual History Lab Conference, London, June 2013

My Victorian Commons and History of Parliament blog posts:

-‘Mental illness on trial: Henry Meux’s commission of lunacy and the 1857 general election’, January 2023

‘The ballot without jokes has no meaning for members’: Henry Berkeley and the parliamentary campaign for secret voting, 1848-66, September 2022

– Ballot boxes, bills and unions: Harriet Grote (1792-1878) and the public campaign for the ballot, 1832-9, May 2022

– ‘She, yes, she was the only member of parliament’: Harriet Grote, radical parliamentary tactics and House of Lords reform, 1835-6, March 2022

– ‘‘Another of my female politicians’ epistles’: Harriet Grote (1792-1878), the 1835 Parliament and the failed attempt to establish a radical party’, January 2022

– ‘Harriet Grote (1792-1878) and the first reformed Parliament, 1833-34: a woman at Westminster’, September 2021

– ‘Surveying the UK’s parliamentary boroughs: map-making and the 1831-2 boundary commissions’, June 2021

– ‘The radical hostess of Parliament Street: Harriet Grote (1792-1878), the 1832 election and establishing influence as a woman at Westminster’, May 2021

– ‘Covent Garden was lit up by a lucid light’: an MP’s account of the fire at Her Majesty’s Theatre, 6 December 1867, May 2021

– The geography of voting behaviour: towards a roll-call analysis of England’s reformed electoral map, 1832-68, March 2021

– ‘Had she been a man, she would have been the leader of a party’: Harriet Grote (1792-1878), radicalism and Parliament, 1820-41, January 2021

– A Highland canvass in a ‘pocket county’: Ronald Gower (1845-1916) and the 1867 Sutherland by-election, December 2020

– ‘The ‘beautiful boy’ of the Commons: Lord Ronald Gower (1845-1916) and sexual identity in Parliament at the time of the Second Reform Act‘, November 2020

– ‘Lord Ronald Gower (1845-1916): the social life of a queer MP at the time of the Second Reform Act‘, October 2020

– ‘Book Review: Peterloo: The English Uprising by Robert Poole’, September 2020

– ‘A strenuous and able Reformer’: Dr Stephen Lushington (1782-1873)’, September 2020

– ‘The queen and the chemist’s son: Matthew Wood MP and the radical defence of Queen Caroline’, July 2020

– ‘The Donkey and his young asses’: stationery, corruption and the short-lived parliamentary career of Sir John Key (1794-1858)’, June 2020

– ‘The power of returning our members will henceforth be in our own hands’: parliamentary reform and its impact on Exeter, 1820-1868’, May 2020

– ‘Lord Ronald Gower (1845-1916): the life of a queer MP at the time of the Second Reform Act’, February 2020

– ‘From parliamentary reporter to Member of Parliament: Robert Spankie (1774-1842)’, January 2020

– ‘William Tooke and the royal charters of the University of London’, August 2019

– ‘The representation of Devon and Cornwall after reform, 1832-68’, May 2019

– ‘The Disruption, Parliament and Conservative division: Alexander Campbell (1811-1869)’, April 2019

– ‘Science, parliamentary inquiry and the Whig decade of reform’, February 2019

– ‘Innovation, corruption and bankruptcy: Charles John Mare (1814-1898)’, December 2018

– ‘The University of London, representation and the 1867 Reform Act’, November 2018

– ‘Digital humanities and political history: in memoriam Valerie Cromwell’, October 2018

– ‘So much for the behaviour of the first assemblage of gentlemen’: views from parliament by a Devonshire Tory’, August 2018

– ‘Imagery and props: Wellington, Disraeli and Gladstone’, August 2018

– ‘The 1868 Boundary Act: Disraeli’s attempt to control his ‘leap in the dark’?’, May 2018

– ‘MP of the Month: Joseph Locke (1805-1860)’, April 2018

– ‘MP of the Month: George Donisthorpe Thompson (1804-1878)’, December 2017

– ‘MP of the Month: Charles Gilpin (1815-1874)’, September 2017

 ‘Some parallels: the 1832 and 2018 boundary reviews’, July 2017

– ‘Five elections in seven years: Peterborough, Whalley and the Fitzwilliam interest’, April 2017

– ‘”Fighting, swearing, drinking, and squabbling”: Charles Dickens, Eatanswill and the 1835 Northamptonshire North by-election’, February 2017

– ‘MP of the Month: Charles Capper (1822-1869)’, December 2016

– ‘Props in Parliament‘, August 2016

– ‘The sagacity of the elephant, as well as the form’: MP of the Month, George Ward Hunt (1825-77)’, July 2016

– ‘A family affair: the Knightleys and Northamptonshire South, 1832-1868’, March 2016


Researcher for Anthony Blunt: A Question of Retribution?, BBC Radio 4 (2020)

Series researcher for Prime Ministers’ Props, BBC Radio 4 (2016 & 2018)

‘The History of Political Constituencies’, Making History, BBC Radio 4 (2017)