News and Events

See below for our latest news, events and publications.

You can also:

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- Read our History of Parliament blog, the Victorian Commons blog and our Director’s blog.

- See the current programme of our 'Parliaments, Politics and People' Seminar at the Institute of Historical Research

The History of Parliament Trust is delighted to announce the publication of a volume based on the Trust’s ground breaking oral history project. The Political Lives of Postwar British MPs, authored by the project’s coordinators Dr Emma Peplow and Dr Priscila Pivatto, delves deeply into a unique archive of nearly 200 interviews with former MPs to immerse the reader in what political life at Westminster was really like between the 1950s and early 2000s.

Through extracts from their interviews, this book provides striking, vivid and sometimes poignant insights into the life stories of individual politicians, including their personal, as well as political experiences. They come from a range of backgrounds and had varied experiences of Westminster – from cabinet ministers to backbench rebels; those who sat for decades to those whose time as an MP was fleeting; the ‘old boys’ to union officials and the comparatively few women – this is a surprisingly diverse picture and one that challenges the public perception that politicians are all the same.

Some examples from the book:

I’ve spent most of my life I think, since my teenage years, knocking on doors. I do find it fascinating. When you knock on the door, the door opens and you’ve got a split sec¬ond judgement to make. Somebody appears in front of you: a little old lady, a young person, a burly man and you’ve got to sort of pitch your appeal rapidly, trying [to] make an instant impression. […] It’s the attempt to try and build this bridge between the political class, who are seen as something away and different and strange, all got two heads, very odd, and ordinary people who live ordinary lives, and try to bridge that gap. I thought it was absolutely crucial, certainly if you wanted to go on and get elected.
John Cartwright (Labour/SDP, October 1974–92)

I remember someone […] giving me the great lecture of: ‘This place now belongs to you. You’ve been anointed by the popular vote. You can go anywhere. Do anything.’ So that afternoon I opened a door that said ‘Members only’ and found myself facing a row of urinals.
Helene Hayman (Labour, October 1974–9)

Once you’ve been a whip, it never leaves you. [...] It was a very different kind of set-up, than it is now. It was all male; it had been operated as, certainly until the time I went there at least, as a pseudo-military operation. [...] The Wednesday morning meeting of the whips, where the silver salver and the silver tum¬blers came out, with the different whips’ names engraved on them. The champagne went round the table with the orange juice, and we drank the health to our former members and the prime minister [...] and then got on with business. It was tradition. [And] to be part of that, sitting around that table.
Timothy Kirkhope (Conservative, 1987–97)

The book explores how and why MPs became interested in politics, how they found their seat and fought election campaigns, what it felt like to speak in the chamber and balance the competing needs of party, constituency, and personal conscience (or ambition). In the process, readers will be given a rare glimpse into the spaces inhabited by MPs, political rivalries and friendships, and the rise and fall of careers. This book provides deep insight into the political lives of MPs in our age.   

The e-book is currently available from Bloomsbury Academic

Pre-order your version in print, available 20 August, here.

“Thanks to the heroic efforts of the History of Parliament Trust, these oral histories have preserved in amber an authentic but otherwise fleeting portrait of Westminster for the ages. Anybody seeking to understand the interior life of Parliament – indeed how the United Kingdom is governed – will find this book indispensable. And thoroughly fascinating!” –  Russell Riley, Co-chair of the Presidential Oral History Program, University of Virginia's Miller Center, USA

“Every page of this fascinating book pulls into focus the human drama of electoral politics over the past half-century. Here are political lives being made and re-made, from childhood through to old age, and from the constituency campaign trail to the Parliamentary despatch box. Peplow and Pivatto are wise and sensitive guides to this unique repository. Their book will captivate anyone with a serious interest in the people who govern us.” –  Helen McCarthy, Lecturer in Modern British History, University of Cambridge, UK

Please direct press inquiries to: ssturgess@histparl.ac.uk

Professor Peter D.G. Thomas

The History is extremely sad to hear of the recent death of Peter D.G. Thomas (1930-2020), formerly professor of history at the University of Wales, Aberystwyth, who contributed a large number of articles on Welsh MPs and constituencies for both the 1715-54 and 1754-90 House of Commons sections.

The last research student to be supervised by Sir Lewis Namier, Peter published extensively on eighteenth-century parliamentary history, commencing with his path-breaking 1971 study The House of Commons in the Eighteenth Century. He went on to produce a series of important works on the politics of the 1760s and '70s, including a biography of the prime minister Lord North and one of the most important studies of the radical politician John Wilkes: John Wilkes: A Friend to Liberty (1996).

Peter continued to research long after retiring from his university chair, and as recently as 2018 published in Parliamentary History an article throwing new light on the early career of Charles James Fox, which exemplified the virtues of thorough research and scrupulous scholarship that characterize all his historical writings.

The History of Parliament are delighted to announce the publication of its long anticipated volumes on the House of Commons, 1422-1461, edited by Linda Clark.

The volumes, covering the long reign of Henry VI, contain biographies of all of the 2,844 men who sat in the Commons during the period, and accounts of the political history of each of the 144 English constituencies. The new volumes will be the thirteenth set published by the History, now reaching a total of 53 individual volumes containing over 30 million words.

For further details about the set see our press release, here

For sales please refer to the publication page via our publisher, Cambridge University Press, here.

For media and general inquiries please contact website@histparl.ac.uk. 

On 23 June 2020 the IHR Parliament, Politics and People seminar will be a hosting a virtual seminar via Zoom with Mark Frankel (University of Birmingham). Mark will be answering questions on his paper and blog: ‘Thomas Edmund Harvey, Politician of Conscience’. The paper is part of Mark’s wider PhD research into Thomas Edmund Harvey (1875-1955). Mark will provide a brief summary of his paper before a question and answer session. You can access Mark’s paper and blog via the links below:


You can read Mark Frankel’s paper in PDF format or Word Format (right click ‘save file as’)


You can download an audio file of Mark reading his paper here (right click ‘save file as’)


You can read Mark Frankel’s blog on the History of Parliament blog from 16 June 2020


The virtual seminar will take place on Zoom at 17:15 on 23 June 2020. If you would like to attend please email Dr Martin Spychal for details: mspychal@histparl.ac.uk. If you are unable to attend but would like to submit a question for Mark please contact mspychal@histparl.ac.uk.



Competition rules and entry instructions


1.    The History of Parliament Trust will award a prize of £250 to the best undergraduate dissertation presented in 2020 on a subject relating to British or Irish parliamentary or political history.

2.    Each university History department is invited to enter one dissertation which they consider to qualify.  They should send a digital copy of the entry to Sammy Sturgess at ssturgess@histparl.ac.uk together with a completed entry form and an unbound copy of the dissertation to ‘History of Parliament Dissertation competition, 18 Bloomsbury Square, London WC1A 2NS’. Copies will not be returned.

3.    Due to the disruption to university deadlines and examinaton boards we will extend the deadline (from the usual September) to 18 December 2020. If your institution requires further flexibility as events progress please get in touch with Sammy Sturgess. 

4.    Parliamentary History has agreed to consider publication in the Journal for the winning dissertation.  The decision to publish or not will be at the discretion of the editor of Parliamentary History.  They may ask for appropriate amendments if necessary.

5.    For any queries, please contact: ssturgess@histparl.ac.uk.

For details about the History of Parliament Trust, please see our website, www.historyofparliamentonline.org.

The History of Parliament will run its essay competition for Sixth Form students during the summer term. Entries are encouraged from Year 11, 12 and 13 students (or all 16-18 year olds for those outside England and Wales) and the winner will receive £100.

The prize will be awarded for the best essay on a subject of the candidate's own choice related to the parliamentary or political history of Britain and Ireland before 1997. Although candidates for essays covering the period before 1832 are encouraged to look at and use the material on the History of Parliament’s website (www.historyofparliament.org) it is not required that they should do so. Students may also find the History of Parliament blog to assist them (https://thehistoryofparliament.wordpress.com/).

Essays should be between 2000 and 4000 words and submitted by a member of school staff (not personally or by a parent or guardian).

The closing date for this competition is 31 July 2020.

Competition rules

The winner of the competition will receive a prize of £100.

The competition is open to any student at a UK school or college, preparing to study or currently studying for A levels (years 11, 12 and 13 or 16-18 y/o).

Essays should be submitted by a school, and no school should submit more than four essays.

Essays should between 2000 and 4000 words.

Essays should be typed.

Entries should be sent to our Public Engagement Assistant, Connie Jeffery at cjeffery@histparl.ac.uk

We regret that entries cannot be individually acknowledged, and will not be returned after the competition.

Please send one email per individual entry.

Entries must be received by 31 July 2020.

Judging will be by a panel appointed by the History of Parliament.  Their decision will be final, and no correspondence can be entered into.

For each competition there will be one winner, although the judges may make special commendations if they think fit.

Please enclose the following details with each entry:

  1. The candidate’s name
  2. The candidate’s school and its address, with a telephone or email contact for the school, and email contact for the candidate, if they have left school.
  3. The candidate’s age at 31 July 2020
  4. A declaration, signed by the teacher, saying that the work is all the candidate’s own.


For any queries, please contact us at cjeffery@histparl.ac.uk

The History of Parliament will run its history competition for 11-14 year olds throughout the summer term to support teachers and students during the unusual teaching and learning environment as a result of the Covid-19 outbreak. The winner will receive a prize of book vouchers worth £75.

The competition is open to all students in the UK aged 11-14 years old.

Entries should be between 500-1000 words and must be submitted by school staff (not a student, parent or guardian) on or before 31 July 2020.

The task has two options (see below) based on the Political Reform materials on our website’s schools section and teaching materials, and our YouTube channel. These materials are specially-adapted from our research and the resources on the website include schemes of works for teachers (students should choose on option only).

Task: Parliamentary Reform

The Political Reform materials on the History of Parliament website and the 19th century reform playlist on YouTube explore how Britain changed from a country where political power was held by a few privileged people to one much more democratic – at least if you were a man! They include information on several of the important reform acts, such as the 1832 Reform Act (see Lesson 2: 1832 Reform Act) and the 1867 Reform Act and the 1872 Ballot Act (see Lesson 4: 1867 Reform Act & 1872 Ballot Act)

Option 1: Entrants should choose one of these reform acts, and write a parliamentary speech either for or against it.

Option 2: Entrants should choose one of these reform acts, and write a newspaper article for a pro-reform or anti-reform newspaper.


Information can be found throughout our Reform schools materials, but these articles should be particularly useful for the 1832 Reform Act:

1830-32 Parliaments

Lord John Russell

Sir Richard Vyvyan



And the 1867 Reform Act and the 1872 Ballot Act

1865-68 Parliament

John Stuart Mill

John Bright



There are also specific teaching resources and lesson plans, including lessons focussing specifically on these reform acts, available for teachers here.

The videos in the 19th century reform playlist are available here.

Competition rules

For individual entries, the winner of the competition will receive a prize of a book token for £75.

The competition is open to any student at a UK school or college who will not have passed his or her 15th birthday by 31 July 2020.

Entries should be sent to our Public Engagement Assistant, Connie Jeffery at cjeffery@histparl.ac.uk

Please send one email per individual entry

Entries must be received by 31 July 2020.

Judging will be by a panel appointed by the History of Parliament. Their decision will be final, and no correspondence can be entered into.

For each competition there will be one winner, although the judges may make special commendations if they think fit.

We regret that entries cannot be individually acknowledged, and will not be returned after the competition.

Some entries may be used on historyofparliamentonline.org: those whose entries are used in this way will be contacted.

All entries must be accompanied by the following information:

    1. The candidate’s name
    2. The candidate’s school and its address, with a telephone or email contact for the school
    3. The candidate’s age at 31 July 2020.
    4. A declaration, signed by the teacher, saying that the work, including any photographs submitted, is all the candidate’s own.

On 28 April 2020 the IHR Parliaments, Politics and People seminar will be hosting a virtual seminar with Helen Sunderland (Corpus Christi, Cambridge). Helen will be discussing schoolgirls’ visits to the Houses of Parliament, 1880-1918, which is part of her wider research on schoolgirls and politics in late nineteenth and early twentieth-century England.  She will be publishing a blog discussing her research on https://thehistoryofparliament.wordpress.com/ on 27 April. The virtual seminar will take place on Twitter the following day (28 April) between 2pm and 3pm. It will be hosted by the History of Parliament Twitter account: @histparl. To submit questions for Helen please contact us on Twitter or via website@histparl.ac.uk

The History of Parliament Trust office in Bloomsbury is closed to the visitors indefinitely. Our research and support staff continue to work remotely and are able to answer queries via email. Please contact us at website@histparl.ac.uk. Please note that calls to the office will not be answered at this time. 

Excepting events, business will proceed as usual to the best of our abilities. Head over to Twitter and our blog to see what we are up to.

We will update this page as the situation progresses. 

The History of Parliament is delighted to announce the creation of a new, five-year long House of Lords project covering the reign of Elizabeth I (1558-1603). Elizabeth’s was the longest reign of any English monarch since that of Edward III (1327-77). Her period on the throne witnessed no fewer than ten parliaments, which met at fairly regular intervals, roughly once every four years. Two of these parliaments consisted of more than one session. Her fourth, which sat over the course of three sessions between 1572 and 1581, was not only the longest running Parliament of the sixteenth century but also the longest up to that time – the ‘Long Parliament’ of its day.

The official Journal of the House of Lords during this period is notoriously meagre, and there are no known Lords’ diaries or ‘scribbled books’ kept by the Clerk either. However, there is a wealth of associated material available, both in the records of the House of Commons and in the State Papers. New sources have also been discovered, most notably a list of the procession to Parliament in 1572 compiled by one of the heralds and now in the archives of Gonville and Caius College, and an account in the College of Arms of the opening proceedings in 1601. The most interesting find to date is a sketch of the Queen seated in Parliament attended by the peers, made on the final day of the 1597-8 Parliament and presumably drawn by one of the heralds.

By exploring this information the team hopes to shed fresh light on the activities of the House and its members, of which there were about 250 in total, including some of the most powerful and influential personalities of their day. Elizabeth’s chief minister, Sir William Cecil, was ennobled as Baron Burghley in 1571 and so sat in the Lords in seven parliaments. Elizabeth’s great favourite and master of the horse, Robert Dudley, earl of Leicester, was also a member of the Lords, though his duties as commander of the English forces in the Netherlands in the mid-1580s meant that he was not always able to attend in person.

Biographies will take as their focal point the parliamentary and political aspect of each peer’s career. Among the many questions we shall address, both in the biographies and the accompanying Introductory Survey volume, is the extent to which peers exploited their links with members of the Commons to put pressure on Elizabeth over such matters as the succession and further reform of the Church. We shall also examine the divisions between peers and the role of faction at Court, not only in the 1590s, when the Court was split between the partisans of the Cecils on the one hand and the supporters of Robert Devereux, 2nd earl of Essex on the other, but also in the 1560s and 1570s, when courtiers were sometimes to be seen sporting the colours of rival factions. The role played by Catholic peers, of whom there were many, will also be examined. In particular, we will look at the extent to which Catholic peers accommodated themselves to the Protestant regime and continued to participate in parliamentary affairs.

The project’s research staff will blog about their methods and discoveries as the project progresses on a dedicated strand of posts on the History’s blog site. Keep an eye on our feed for new posts.

With the History of Parliament’s volumes for the reign of Henry VI complete and due for publication shortly, the focus of the History’s medieval team now shifts to the period from the accession of Edward IV in 1461 to that of his grandson Henry VIII in 1509. This exciting new project will cover the Parliaments of no fewer than five English monarchs: those convened by Edward IV, Edward V, Richard III and Henry VII between 1461 and 1504, as well as the Parliament summoned during  Henry VI’s readeption in 1470-71.

The period not only saw the longest Parliaments held to date (that of 1463 remained in being, albeit in recess, until 1465, while that of 1472 held multiple sessions over four years until the summer of 1475), it also saw a new development in English parliamentary history in the repeated and regular cancellation and delay of individual sessions and even entire Parliaments.

Among the particular challenges facing the team of scholars working on this period is the loss of most of the original election returns for the period, with the exception of those for the Parliaments of 1467, 1472 and 1478. Meticulous work in national as well as local archives has nevertheless brought to light much additional information: the East Anglian election returns for the Parliament of 1461 have in recent years been found among the records of the Westminster law courts, lists of Members of the Commons for two of Henry VII’s Parliaments are supplied by early modern copies in the British Library, and local records have provided the names of many hundreds of urban representatives elected during the period. Altogether, the names are today known of more than 1,300 men who sat in the Commons between 1461 and 1504.  

Nor are the proceedings of the Parliaments of the period without interest. In the repeated changes of ruler Parliament began to adopt a more pronounced constitutional role in facilitating dynastic change, and if Edward IV was prone to use Parliament as a clearing house for his and his family’s property transactions, Henry VII’s Parliament of 1495 stands out as one of the great legislative assemblies of the middle ages.

Those interested in the period will be able to follow the section’s work through a new strand of posts on the History of Parliament’s blog, which will explore individuals, events and themes relating to the dramatic history of the later fifteenth century.