For historians, the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography in its online version is a must-bookmark-site. In addition to many people from Bedfordshire or with connections to the county, it contains articles on groups and themes that provide background for the county's history and people.
Bedford Whigs (c.1748–c.1784) summarises the politicians connected with the 4th Duke of Bedford's political career. By coincidence it covers some of the people and much of the period in BHRS's forthcoming 2011 volume, How Bedfordshire Voted, 1735-1784: the evidence of local documents and poll books, edited by James Collett-White. The Broad-bottom ministry (1744–1746), Leicester House (1743–1760) and the Old corps (court Whigs) (1742–1762) also provide political background for the book.
The forthcoming volume, How Bedfordshire Voted 1735-1784, continues his two earlier volumes for the Society and completes a century of coverage of Bedfordshire elections. Most of the first two volumes, covering 1685 to 1734, contained transcriptions of the county and borough (of Bedford) poll books. In this last, almost 50-year period, there is only one complete poll book surviving (1774). The majority of the book contains letters and extracts from newspapers and Bedford borough documents which throw light on the political dealing that went on behind the scenes to obtain voters' support.
After reading it, all I can say is thank heavens for the secret ballot! The book is due out at the end of 2011 or early 2012. Buy it, read it, and see what you think about eighteenth-century political dealing.
How Bedfordshire Voted 1735-1784: the evidence of local documents and poll books, edited by James Collett-White. Bedfordshire Historical Record Society, volume 90. To be published by Boydell & Brewer.