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News and Events

See below for our latest news, events and publications.

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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. 

Effect of today, 16 March 2020, the History of Parliament Trust office in Bloomsbury will be operating with minimal staff. Our research and support staff will be working remotely and are able to answer queries via email. Please contact us at website@histparl.ac.uk. Please note that we cannot guarantee that calls will be answered at this time. 

Excepting events, business will proceed as usual to the best of our abilities. 

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.

Collaborative Doctoral Award with the Open University: The Black and Mixed Ethnicity Presence in British Politics, 1750-1850

We are pleased to announce that the History of Parliament Trust is participating in a doctoral studentship project in partnership with the Open University. Applications are invited for an Open-Oxford-Cambridge AHRC DTP-funded Collaborative Doctoral Award, for entry in 2020-21. The deadline for application to the Open University is 8 January 2020.

The proposed PhD research will examine ‘The Black and Mixed Ethnicity Presence in British Politics, 1750-1850’. It will be supervised by Dr. Amanda Goodrich (Open University) and Dr. Robin Eagles (History of Parliament Trust). For further details on the project, see https://www.oocdtp.ac.uk/black-and-mixed-ethnicity-presence-british-politics-1750-1850

Details of how to apply to the Collaborative Doctoral Award scheme can be found here: https://www.oocdtp.ac.uk/collaborative-doctoral-awards

We were sorry to hear of the death of Roland Thorne at the age of 79. Roland was the Editor of our House of Commons 1790-1820 volumes, which were published in 1986 and described in The Economist on publication as part of ‘a monumental project of devoted scholarship’, not only an apt description of the publication but also of Roland’s dedication to it.

Roland was born and raised at Thornton, just outside Milford Haven, Pembrokeshire, where his family had long been dairy farmers. Given this background, it is unsurprising that he retained a life-long interest in the history of his native county; and equally unsurprising that he was more at home in the culture of his district, often called ‘little England beyond Wales’, than in that of the Welsh-speaking north part of Pembrokeshire. He was educated at Milford Haven Grammar School and Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, where he took a First in History. His degree was said, on the record, to have been among the top two or three in History achieved in Cambridge since 1945; and equally on the record, his Cambridge career was described as that of a ‘prodigy’, not least because of his very wide knowledge of languages. In the light of Roland’s life’s work at the History of Parliament, his tutor’s comment that in historical topics ‘he tended to neglect … political matters’, reads as deliciously ironic.

Roland came to the History of Parliament in 1963 after a couple of false starts in teaching and academic research. He was appointed research assistant on the House of Commons 1790-1820 Section, then edited by a remote overseer editor, Arthur Aspinall, professor of history at Reading University. Because of funding difficulties at the History, Roland left a year later to teach at South London College, Norwood; but after Aspinall retired, in 1967 he returned, to become Editor in 1970. He was then only 31. With the exception of John Brooke, appointed in 1960 as co-editor of Commons 1754-90 after the sudden death of Sir Lewis Namier, all previous appointments to the post of Editor had been of external senior academics, who held editorships in tandem with full-time employment elsewhere. He then edited the Commons 1790-1820 volumes through to publication. His was the first Section to explore the provincial press for accounts of elections, and his own elegant prose was noted by the reviewers.

In 1981 Roland was made Deputy Editor of the History of Parliament overall, at a time when the chief executive of the organisation was called General Editor and Secretary. This was a proper acknowledgement of his willingness to work cheerfully across the Sections, regardless of period: he proof-read the 1509-58 Commons volumes, and contributed biographies and constituency articles on Welsh subjects to the fledgling Commons 1640-60 Section.  After publication of Commons 1790-1820, Roland had chosen to work only part-time for the History of Parliament, but he returned to full-time employment in 1989 as Editor of the 1820-32 Commons Section, during the illness of Dave Fisher.  He finally retired from the History in May 1991.

Outside the History of Parliament, Roland contributed 44 articles to the Oxford DNB. He contributed to the Transactions of the Honourable Society of Cymmrodorion, and wrote chapters and articles for the Pembrokeshire County History, National Library of Wales Journal and The Pembrokeshire Historian.  He is remembered at the History as a very hard-working and genial colleague, whose diffident manner concealed leadership skills of a high order. He was a great raconteur, with a keen sense of humour – revelling in the absurdities of life and the follies and pomposity of those in authority. The History of Parliament was fortunate to have benefited from his dedication over such a long period.  

Our 2019 undergraduate dissertation competition is now open!

Does your department have an outstanding undergraduate essay on British or Irish parliamentary or political history? If so, we want to hear from you. The prize for the winning entry is £250 and tour of the Houses of Parliament. The closing date for entries is 31 July 2019.

We accept one entry per history department and entries must be entered by staff not students. 

Full details on how to enter can be found here 

Please contact Sammy Sturgess at ssturgess@histparl.ac.uk with any questions.

The History of Parliament Trust and the Devon and Cornwall Record Society are delighted to invite you to our joint conference ‘The South West and Parliament’. It takes place on Saturday 11th May in St Stephen’s Church, High Street Exeter, from 10am to 4pm.

Four presentations across the day will explore aspects of the relationships between Cornwall, Devon and Parliament over five centuries.

  • Hannes Kleineke, "The beginning of troubles": the parliamentary representation of Devon and Cornwall during the crisis years 1449-1453
  • Stephen Roberts, Cornwall, Devon, Parliament and the English Civil War, 1640-48
  • Robin Eagles, "Nothing should have tempted me to concern myself with such an affair": Devon and Cornwall and the opposition to Walpole and the Pelhams c.1727-1760
  • Martin Spychal, The representation of Devon and Cornwall after reform, 1832-68

To book please send a cheque for £10 by the 4th May payable to: The Devon and Cornwall Record Society. Address: The Cottage in Hayes, Cheriton Fitzpaube, EX17 4JG. Please include an email address or stamped SAE for acknowledgement if required.

Alternatively email: elly.babbedge@hotmail.co.uk for more information.

We hope you can join us!