Parliamentary Representation Before 1832

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Map Code: Ax01789

Dunwich in Suffolk was a thriving medieval town until it was inundated by the sea in the 14th century. But it still returned two MPs to the pre-Reform parliament, as did the seven electors of Old Sarum and Gatton respectively. Before ennoblement, the Duke of Wellington served as MP for the ‘rotten’ Irish borough of Trim. While the rotten boroughs were egregious, the most pervasive inequity resulted from ‘pocket’ boroughs, where one person or family controlled the election of political representatives. The Duke of Norfolk held no less than eleven, the Earl of Lonsdale nine. Most of parliament was sewn up in this way; no adjustments had been made to reflect the massive population growth and urbanization since the 1750s. Women were (and would remain) excluded from the franchise, and most males were disqualified because they did not meet property-holding requirements. Scotland, Wales, and particularly Ireland were heavily underrepresented. Ironically, the most reactionary Tories ended up supporting reform purely to counter Irish Catholic Emancipation (1829).

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