Political Participation
& Electoral Culture

Eighteenth-century Britain is notorious for its corrupt and restrictive politics, when few could vote and bribery and debauchery were commonplace. But it was also an age when modern democracy was being shaped. Parliamentary elections could be fiercely contested. Campaigns were fought at public meetings and entertainments, in print and song, through dress and decoration. Men and women, rich and poor, voters and non-voters, all participated – as consumers, but also as active makers of these unique cultural and political experiences.

Eighteenth-Century Political Participation & Electoral Culture collects in one place a wealth of information on English parliamentary elections from 1695 to the Reform Act of 1832. This includes a complete list of all surviving poll books, transcribed and searchable data on how people voted, and wonderful examples of the visual, material and musical culture that elections generated.

Case Study Constituencies

Nineteen Eighteenth-Century case study constituencies have been selected as being representative of different kinds of constituencies in terms of their size and their franchise, as well as having a geographical spread, and a good amount of surviving data, particularly poll books.

Electoral Culture

Eighteenth-century election contests were multi-media events, playing out in print and aurally, as events in private and public spaces, and manifesting in a huge variety of material culture. Some aspects of this extensive material culture are presented here in a series of online curated exhibitions on particular themes. Items can also be searched for individually using the Cultural Artefacts Explorer.