The mid-nineteenth-century British electoral system is explored through the contents of the electoral registers and their associated legislation. The impact of these is addressed through an examination of the national system of parliamentary representation applying from 1832 and then 1868. This reveals the importance to achieving a Commons majority, particularly for the Conservative party, of winning a majority of seats in small English boroughs.
Winchester is shown to be representative of these boroughs. ‘Winchester Man’ is advanced as the archetypal elector of this era. His environment and nature are then addressed. He is found to have a relatively short life as an elector. This is found to correspond with the peak of his socio-economic standing during his lifecycle.
Increased mobility of the population and ‘Winchester Man’s’ short ‘elector life’ are shown to add to uncertainty amongst party officials as to his political loyalty. This challenges the somewhat deterministic views of earlier writers on the subject who see the revision courts as absolutely deciding the outcome of future contests. The increasing incidence of contested elections is claimed to arise from this level of uncertainty.
The revision court was the scene of partisan activity but some electors crept through the registration process ‘under the radar’ or with their presumed loyalty untested. ‘Winchester Man’s’ electoral behaviour is then explored. This is shown to be intrinsically of a politically partisan nature but tempered by initial diffidence. Much partisanship, perhaps stirred by the clear political divide in the revision court, remained latent due to the failure of the political parties regularly to field two candidates in a two-seat borough. Even when two candidates from the same party stood they often did not unite on a common ‘ticket’. This failed to encourage partisan voting behaviour particularly for those already in the habit of ‘splitting’.
|Date of Award||16 May 2014|
|Supervisor||Mark Allen (Supervisor) & Jean Morrin (Supervisor)|