Constituencies 1604-1629

The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1604-1629 edited by Andrew Thrush and John P. Ferris, was published in six volumes in November 2010.

259 constituencies in total elected the 1,782 Members in this period and each of these constituencies has an article in this section. The surveys provide detail on both the elections and local politics within each constituency.

Seven parliaments met during this period, each of which was preceded by nationwide elections. These assemblies were punctuated at intervals with by-elections to replace those Members who had died, were judged incapable of serving or chose to represent another constituency. Fifty-five per cent of constituencies experienced at least one by-election during these years, with the result that between 1604 and 1629 the number of elections in some constituencies reached double figures. Maldon, Wilton, Newton (Lancs.) and the combined borough of Weymouth and Melcombe Regis all held eleven; at St. Albans there were no less than twelve. In total, more than two thousand elections were held between 1604 and 1629.

Elections during this period became frequently competitive and often involved thousands of voters: the Westminster election in 1628 saw Sir Robert Pye defeated ‘by above a thousand voices’. For more information on elections, see Dr Andrew Thrush’s introductory survey on the subject.

During this period Parliament continued the dramatic expansion that had begun in the early sixteenth century. New boroughs in counties that already sent representatives to Westminster were added, due in large part to a widely held feeling that large sections of the political nation were either inadequately represented at Westminster or not represented at all. Aside from Cornwall and Wiltshire, which could muster thirty-seven enfranchised boroughs between them, most of England’s forty counties were only thinly represented. Before 1604, Rutland, for example, had no enfranchised boroughs at all. In 1614 the commons, having recently won the right to judge election returns itself, sought to bring about its own enlargement; a move that was strongly opposed by James I. For more, read Dr Andrew Thrush’s survey on the membership of the commons.