Few constituencies in the United Kingdom escaped the impact of seat redistribution, boundary revision or franchise reform in 1832. Of the four nations, England’s electoral map underwent the most drastic transformation in its electoral geography – the vast majority of its reformed counties and boroughs were operating under distinctly new electoral conditions after 1832. This paper provides a new roll-call analysis of the UK Parliament between 1832 and 1868, exploring the impact that England’s reformed electoral map had on the formation of governments, decision-making in the Commons and the evolution of party. It considers the impact of constituencies on the voting behaviour of MPs in major confidence motions, and in three key policy areas that defined Westminster politics between the first and second Reform Acts – free trade, electoral reform and the reform of the Church. My analysis sets the behaviour of English MPs in the context of their Irish, Scottish and Welsh colleagues, and is based on my extensions, and revisions, to the Eggers and Spirling and History of Parliament division list datasets, 1836-1910. As well as offering the first geographical analysis of voting behaviour covering the entire time span of the reformed Commons, the paper will reflect on the challenges of incorporating big data into electoral and political histories.
Dr Martin Spychal is a research fellow at the History of Parliament, working on the House of Commons 1832-68 project. He is a historian of nineteenth-century Britain, focusing on electoral and parliamentary politics, institutional development and the role of the political nation in modern British society and culture. He completed his PhD at the Institute of Historical Research in 2017 and his first book, Mapping the State: geography, representation and the 1832 Reform Act, is forthcoming in the Royal Historical Society's New Historical Perspectives series.
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