By-elections in British Politics, 1832-1914

By-elections in British Politics, 1832-1914

Edited by T. G. Otte, Paul Readman


Boydell Press



Explores the many issues surrounding by-elections in the period which saw the extension of the franchise, the introduction of the ballot, and the demise of most dual member constituencies.
Between the 1832 Great Reform Act and the outbreak of World War One in 1914, over 2,600 by-elections took place in Britain. They were triggered by the death, retirement or resignation of sitting MPs or by the appointment of cabinet ministers and were a regular feature of Victorian and Edwardian politics. They furnished political parties and their leaders with a crucial tool for gauging and mobilising public opinion. Yet despite the prominence of by-election contests in the historical records of this period, scholars have paid relatively little attention to them. As this book shows, these elections deserve to be taken as seriously today as people took them at the time. They provided important linkages between local and national politics, between the four parts of the United Kingdom and Westminster, and between foreign and domestic affairs. They are vital to understanding the evolving electioneering machineries, the varying language of electoral contests, the traction that particular issues had with a growing and frequently volatile electorate, and the fluctuating fortunes of the political parties.
This book, consisting of original work by leading political historians, provides the first synoptic study of this important subject. It will be required reading for historians and students of modern British political history, as well as specialists in electoral history and politics.

T. G. Otte is Professor of Diplomatic History at the University of East Anglia. He is the author and/or editor of some thirteen books. Among the most recent is The Foreign Office Mind: The Making of British Foreign Policy, 1865-1914.

Paul Readman is Senior Lecturer in Modern British History at King's College London. He is the author of Land and Nation in England: Patriotism, National Identity and the Politics of Land 1880-1914.

Contributors: Luke Blaxill, Angus Hawkins, Geoffrey Hicks, Phillips Payson O'Brien, T.G. Otte, Ian Packer, Gordon Pentland, Paul Readman, Kathryn Rix, Matthew Roberts, Philip Salmon, Anthony Taylor

An e-book version of this title is available (9781782041214), to libraries through a number of trusted suppliers. See here for a full list of our partners.


April 2013
5 line illustrations
320 pages
23.4x15.6 cm
ISBN: 9781843837800
Format: Hardback
Boydell Press
BISAC HIS015000, POL008000, HIS037060
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Table of Contents

Introduction - T. G. Otte and Paul Readman
'Plumping Contests': The Impact of By-elections on English Voting Behaviour, 1790-1868 - Philip Salmon
Government Appointment By-elections: 1832-86 - Angus Hawkins
'We should have had 1,000': The By-elections of the 1874 Parliament - Geoffrey Hicks
'The Glamour of Independence': By-elections and Radicalism during the Liberal Meridian, 1869-83 - Antony Taylor
'The Swing of the Pendulum at Home': By-elections and Foreign Policy, 1865-1914 - T. G. Otte
By-elections and the Modernisation of Party Organisation, 1867-1914 - Kathryn Rix
'A Terrific Outburst of Political Meteorology': By-elections and the Unionist Electoral Ascendancy in Late-Victorian England - Mathew Roberts
Land Reform and By-elections, 1885-1914: Do By-elections Matter? - Ian Packer
Edwardian By-elections - Paul Readman and Luke Blaxill
Lloyd George, Limehouse and the Realignment of British Politics: The Bermondsey By-election of 1909 - Phillips Payson O'Brien
By-elections and the Peculiarities of Scottish Politics, 1832-1900 - Gordon Pentland


Fills a significant gap in the study of British politics... Anyone reading this volume will be left with much to think about, arguments to agree and disagree with, and their understanding of Victorian and Edwardian politics enriched. JOURNAL OF LIBERAL HISTORY

An important and impressive collection that will convince students and specialists of modern British history that they should invest Victorian and Edwardian by-elections with the same significance as did contemporaries. PARLIAMENTARY HISTORY

A stimulating and rewarding book. JOURNAL OF BRITISH STUDIES

A very important addition to the political history of the period [that] deserves to be intensively used by historians. PARLIAMENTARY AFFAIRS

The first synoptic study of the subject, an important one for understanding of the movement and expression of political opinion in various parts of the country. NORTHERN HISTORY

This new edited collection fills an important historiographical gap whilst also showcasing some of the newest and most innovative research in political and electoral history. [.]Making a strong and convincing claim for the significance of by-elections, it is an important addition and therefore comes highly recommended to academics and students alike. REVIEWS IN HISTORY

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