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Eighteenth-century electoral culture was diverse and rich, allowing for political engagement across the social and political spectrum. Print and material forms highlight the wide range of physical objects through which people engaged with citizenship, political candidates, and processes. Candidates also engaged with the bodily experiences of their constituents, treating them with food, drink, and entertainments. This seminar will examine polite and impolite election traditions, from ballads to ballrooms and burlesque elections. Election ballads were a feature of key electoral spaces, ranging from the grand campaign dinner to the principal streets of the town. In these varied settings, ballads fuelled the engagement of voters and non-voters who heard, sung, read, and danced to these forms. Election balls were used by elite families to maintain their political influence; and by candidates to craft their public personas, gauge a constituency’s interest, and consolidate their support post-election. At the other end of the spectrum, mock elections drew from the established proceedings of parliamentary elections, bringing communities together around speeches on the hustings, the printing and distribution of broadsides, processions, music, dancing, and drinking. This joint presentation also introduces the AHRC-funded project, Eighteenth-Century Political Participation and Electoral Culture (ECPPEC), based at Newcastle University, which will provide fresh insights into participation in pre-Reform elections.

All welcome. This event is free to attend, but advance registration is required.

This will be a ‘hybrid’ seminar with a limited number of places available in person and a larger number of bookings for online attendance via Zoom. Those attending in person are asked to bring a Wi-Fi enabled laptop, tablet or phone.