British 'Non-Elite' MPS, 1715-1820

British 'Non-Elite' MPS, 1715-1820

British 'Non-Elite' MPS, 1715-1820

British 'Non-Elite' MPS, 1715-1820

Synopsis

In the eighteenth century the considerable degree of social mobility in British society, especially between the upper and middling ranks, was arguably one of the important factors contributing to political and social stability. The extent of that mobility among the members of the nation's legislature was particularly important in this regard. In the first detailed analysis of its kind, Ian R. Christie examines how far the House of Commons reflected and was itself affected by such social mobility. Enquiry is directed at the growth in number of `non-elite' members of parliament; men without land. This is a fascinating study which every historian of 18th-century Britain will want to read.

Excerpt

The relatively large degree of social mobility in late Stuart and early Hanoverian Britain, which has been the subject of comment by recent historians, is clearly reflected in the membership of George I's two Parliaments. A significant number of the Members came from groups in society which ranked below the traditional ruling élite. Among these groups a feature more noticeable in this period than later in the eighteenth century was the presence of commercial dynasties of foreign origin--chiefly descendants of Protestant refugees from the Continent.

Sixty-two businessmen of various descriptions (including East Indians) were returned to Parliament at the general election of 1715, but not all of these came from the subordinate social groups with which this study is principally concerned. The following Members fell within the classification of 'élite'.

William Ashe was, indeed, the grandson of a London draper, but his grandfather had bought what became the family estate of Heytesbury as far back as 1641, and the family had been settled there for three generations, enjoying a controlling interest over the parliamentary borough, which his father and his elder brother had long represented. Sir John Cope, a London businessman, was the 6th baronet of his line, but followed in the footsteps of his father, the 5th baronet, who had gone into business after being disinherited as a consequence of a matrimonial misalliance. His father had served briefly as a director of the Bank of England, in the years 1695-8 and 1700-2, and he himself was a director from 1706 till 1721. William Aislabie, Peter Godfrey, George Dodington, Sir Richard Gough, Richard Harnage, Edward Harrison, Humphry Morice, the East India Company servant Thomas ('Diamond') Pitt, Humphry Walcot, and the brewer John Lade, were sons of country gentlemen or otherwise closely connected with established landed families. Two uncertain cases where slight indications of élite status seem to be given-- Stephen Bisse and Sir William Gordon--are ranked with this set, making . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.