The meaning and mechanisms of eighteenth-century high politics have long been debated. Was government personal, local and the possession of a narrow elite, or ideological, proto-modern and answerable to public opinion? Was politics a masculine bastion, or accessible to widows and heiresses and lubricated by a social politics engineered by women? Yet notwithstanding decades of scholarship, it is still not easy to discern precisely how and where a member of the government spent his time and how Parliament and Court ran on an ordinary day. Focusing on the period 1697 to 1834 (the dates of the fires that first destroyed Whitehall Palace and then the remaining parliamentary buildings of the Palace of Westminster), this paper addresses the seemingly simple question of how those participating in London's high political culture organised their time - a question which forces analysis of all the components of the eighteenth century's multi-stranded and multi-locational political infrastructure. Using the methodological and conceptual prism of a ‘political day’, we examine the complex temporal and spatial aspects of political life in London. In so doing we develop a new approach to the study of eighteenth-century political culture, using techniques developed by historians of time, space and gender to interrogate the structural and social complexities of contemporary politics and to explore how court and Parliament, Lords and Commons, noblemen and noblewomen, formal politics and social politics, complemented and countered each other. Crucially, the majority of spaces and routines of the political day very clearly incorporated women as well as men. Instead of demonstrating how far eighteenth-century female political actors resembled men, this paper argues that it is more productive and revealing to reflect on the ways eighteenth-century men's political practice resembled women's.
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