|Middle ages (5th to the 15th century)||Local sheriffs were given the power to appoint members of Parliament to represent their areas.
County boundaries were established as far back as the 8th century.Boroughs
Centres of population originally chosen by the local sheriff.
King John signs the Magna Carta.
Image source: A Chronicle of England
King John agreed to Magna Carta which stated the right of the barons to consult with and advise the king in his Great Council.
|1236||Earliest use of the term Parliament, referring to the Great Council.|
|1254||Sheriffs were instructed to send elected representatives of the counties (knights of the shire) to consult with the King on taxation.|
|1258||At a Parliament at Oxford, the nobles drafted the "Provisions of Oxford" which called for regular Parliaments with representatives from the counties.|
|1265||Simon de Montfort, in rebellion against Henry III, summoned a Parliament which included for the first time representatives of both the counties and boroughs.|
|1295||Model Parliament was made up of nobles and bishops, and two representatives for each county and for each borough - the model for future Parliaments.|
|1327||From this date representatives of the counties (knights of the shire) and of the boroughs (burgesses) were always summoned together to Parliament.|
|1332||Knights of the shire and burgesses met together and were called the Commons.|
|1341||The Commons met separately from the Upper House for the first time.|
|1362||A statute established that Parliament must approve all taxation.|
|1399||Parliament deposed Richard II and Henry IV's reign started.|
|1432||Owners of property worth over 40 shillings (£2) were given the right to vote in county elections.|
The 40 shilling qualification was never adjusted for inflation so that over time more people qualified for the vote.
Women were never expressly excluded from the vote but since on marriage all their property becomes that of their husband, most no longer qualified. Those that did, by convention did not vote.
People who met the property qualification in more than one county were entitled to a vote in each county - multiple voting.
|1535||Legislation provides for Welsh representatives in the House of Commons.|
|1640s||During the Commonwealth, a number of reforms were proposed by Cromwell, of which a few were implemented.
All the new arrangements were reversed when the monarchy was restored.
|1707||Acts of Union passed in the Parliaments of England and Scotland unite the two countries. Scotland allocated 45 seats in the House of Commons.|
|1729||Bribery Act passed to address corruption in elections.|
|1801||Act of Union joins Ireland and Great Britain. Ireland allocated 100 seats in the House of Commons.|
|1760s-1820s||During this period there was considerable agitation for reform all of which came to nothing. The areas of particular concern were:-
A Cartoon depicting an advert for a Rotten Borough.
Dealing with the corruption in what came to be known as 'the rotten boroughs'.
|1830||On the death of George IV, in June 1830, a general election was held that returned a Tory government led by the Duke of Wellington. Although the opposition was strong enough to force the Tories into formulating a reform bill, the strong opposition of the Duke and the divisions within his party resulted in the bill being scrapped. The government collapsed and another general election had to be held. A Whig government under Lord Grey was elected.|
|1831||First Reform Bill.
This bill maded it as far as the committee stages where Isaac Gascoyne objected to the proposed reduction of seats in the House of Commons. His amendment was accepted against the will of the government, effectively ending the bill's life. Parliament was dissolved and another general election held to establish the will of the people. The Whigs won an overwhelming majority thus confirming the appetite of the people for reform.
|1832||Reform Act 1832 - also known as the Great Reform Act.
The main thrust of the Act was in dealing with constituency reforms. Constituency boundaries were altered to make them more equal sizes. Qualifying rules were standardised and voting rights were extended to the new industrial towns. The franchise was also extended to male owners and tenants of larger properties which meant that 1 in 7 men now had the vote. The Act expressly mentioned males only, thus excluding women.
UK Population 1830s - 16,539,000 Estimated
Electorate 1832 - 812,938
|1838 to 1867||The Chartist Movement.|
A Chartist Riot.
Image source: True Stories of the Reign of Queen Victoria by Cornelius Brown.
Chartism was a national working-class movement for political reform in Britain which took its name from the People's Charter of 1838.
The People's Charter called for six reforms to make the political system more democratic:
|1867||Male suffrage was extended by extending the property requirements to urban areas.
UK Cenus Population 1861 - 28,917,000
Electorate 1865 - 1,350,404
Electorate 1868 - 2,484,713
|1872||Ballot Act 1872.
Introduce the secret ballot for parliamentary and local elections.
UK Cenus Population 1871 - 31,484,700
Electorate 1874 - 2,753,142
|1884||Representation of the People Act 1884
The franchise for men was widened still further and stopped the practise of subdividing property to give people extra votes but did nothing to stop people having votes in more than one constituency. This act also introduced the system of one member per constituency.
UK Cenus Population 1881 - 34,934,500
Electorate 1880 - 3,040,050
Electorate 1885 - 5,708,030
|Mid to Late 1800s and Early 1900s.||Womens Sufferage Campaign - See Votes for Women box below.
Mrs Pankhurst leaving Epsom Magistrates' Court, accompanied by James Murray, a former MP.
Links to some of our other pages:
|1893||New Zealand became the first country in the world to allow women to vote.|
|1918||Representation of the People Act 1918.
All men over the age of 21 were given the vote in the constituency where they lived.
For the first time women over 30 were officially given the vote but property restrictions still applied unless the women was married. Approximately 40% of women acquired the vote.
Parliament (Qualification of Women) Act 1918.
This act allowed women to become MPs.
UK Cenus Population 1911 - 42,082,000
Electorate 1910 - 7,709,981 (December Election)
Electorate 1918 - 21,392,322
Nancy Astor, the first women to take her seat in Parliament.
Image source: Library of Congress
Nancy Astor became the first women to take her seat in Parliament. (The first woman to be elected to the House of Commons was Constance Georgine Markievicz (Countess Markieviecz) an Irish Sinn Féin and Fianna Fáil politician on 28 December 1918 but she did not take her seat.)
|1920||Government of Ireland Act 1920 and the Irish Free State Agreement Act 1922 created the Irish Free State so reducing the number of seats for Irish constituencies at Westminster from 105 to 13 constituencies in Northern Ireland.
UK Cenus Population 1911 - 42,082,000
Electorate 1922 - 20,874,456
|1928||Representation of the People Act 1928.
The voting age for women was reduced to 21 so that all men and women were now treated equally.
UK Cenus Population 1921 - 44,027,000
Electorate 1924 - 21,730,988
Electorate 1929 - 28,854,748
|1948||Representation of the People Act 1948.
Plural voting finally stopped.
UK Cenus Population 1931 - 46,038,000
Electorate 1945 - 33,240,391
Electorate 1950 - 34,412,255
|1969||Representation of the People Act 1969.
The voting age was reduced to 18 for everybody.
UK Cenus Population 1961 - 52,807,000
Electorate 1966 - 35,957,245
Electorate 1970 - 39,342,013
|2008||Voting Age (Reduction) Bill - a Private Members' Bill - to reduce voting age to 16 and over. Bill does NOT become law.|
|B||Business premises qualification - Male (in use from 1928)|
|BP||Business premises qualification|
(Occasionally Business Premises Register)
|Bw||Business premises qualification - Woman (in use from 1928)|
|CI||Civilian residence register|
|D||Qualification through wife's occupation (in use from 1928)|
|Dw||Qualification through husband's occupation (in use from 1928)|
|HO||Qualification through Husbands Occupation|
|J||Eligible to serve as juror|
|NM||Naval or Military Voter|
|O||Pre 1928 Occupation of Property qualification |
From 1928 refers to a Occupation - Male
|Ow||From 1928 refers to a Occupation - Woman|
|R||Residence qualification (From 1928 refers to a Male Voter)|
|Rw||Residence qualification Woman (in use from 1928)|
|SJ||Eligible to serve as special juror|