Thursday 2 October 2008

How Bedfordshire Voted

BHRS's 2008 volume, published in September, is the second in the series of Bedfordshire poll books published under the title How Bedfordshire voted: the evidence of local poll books.

The aim is to make Bedfordshire people's voting record in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries available for study. A review of volume 1 says that it shows "how county politics actually functioned at the level of the individual voter.” and that "this edition … will be absolutely essential for those with specific political, local or familial interests in late seventeenth-century Bedfordshire, as well as those seeking material for a comparative analysis.”

(H R French in History, volume 93, no 311, July 2008, p428-9)

HBV1 covers five elections from 1685 to 1715. HBV2 continues the poll book transcriptions for 1722 to 1735 covering the elections for two representatives of the borough of Bedford for 1722, 1725 (a by-election to elect one representative), 1727 and 1730/1 (another election of one representative) and for two knights of the shire for 1722, 1727 and 1734.

Accompanying text sets the elections in their local, county and national context and demonstrates that political calculations in selecting candidates and how many votes could be counted on are not a new phenomenon. This volume needs to be read with volume 1 where the electoral system and method of voting are explained.

HBV1 and 2 contain around 20,000 names of Bedfordshire voters in 12 elections for the half century from James II’s reign. Three of the poll books were printed at the time and the texts may be found on the internet, but most of the poll books are in manuscript only, so these two volumes make available a massive amount of new information for the historian of Bedfordshire. They give a vivid – and changing – picture of life in the county at a time of social and political upheaval.

Last word to the reviewer “Given the work involved in editing, checking and indexing these lists, the retail price [£25] offers good value, as is usually the case for county record society volumes.” Both volumes are available from the publisher, Boydell & Brewer, and bookshops (see side panel.)

No comments: