Manuscripts and Special Collections


Act of Union

Act of Parliament passed in 1800, which came into effect in 1801, by which the kingdoms of Great Britain and Ireland were united, and the Irish Parliament abolished. People who wished to see the Act repealed were known as Repealers


A speech delivered to an audience. Often published later

Aldborough Constituency

Parliamentary Constituency centred on the town of Aldborough in Yorkshire. It was a 'pocket borough' controlled by the Duke of Newcastle


Elected member of a corporation. More senior than a councillor


A member of the Protestant Church of England or Church of Ireland

Anti-Corn Law League

Organisation founded in Manchester in 1838 which aimed to pressurise government into repealing the Corn Laws


Forced use of the (Anglican) Church of Ireland’s surplus revenues for the benefit of Irish Roman Catholics and Presbyterians as well as Protestants


Nobility, or members of the ruling classes. In the nineteenth century the aristocracy owned around 80% of the land in Britain and dominated parliament

Assize Court

A criminal court held in each county twice a year, which dealt with more serious offences than those heard by the local Quarter Sessions courts, such as murder, assault, theft and trespass. Abolished by the Courts Act 1971 and replaced by the Crown Court


A legal practitioner, often a solicitor. Frequently retained to act as election agents during the nineteenth century

Boroughbridge Constituency

Parliamentary Constituency centred on the town of Boroughbridge in Yorkshire. It was a 'pocket borough' controlled by the Duke of Newcastle

Bow Street Police

Patrol force established at Bow Street in London in the 18th century. Those who worked on foot rather than on horseback were called the 'Bow Street runners'. They were the forerunners of the modern police force

Brunswick Clubs

Protestant Associations founded in response to Daniel O’Connell’s 1828 by-election victory in County Clare


Resident of a borough who had the right to elect members of the corporation


An election held for an individual parliamentary constituency, at a time other than that of a general election


Committee of senior government ministers with responsibility for establishing government policy


Supported the policies and interests of George Canning


The soliciting of votes before an election, or the attempt to ascertain how many votes a candidate may obtain

Catholic Association

Organisation established in Ireland in 1823 and led by Daniel O'Connell, which campaigned for Catholic Emancipation. It was funded by a 'Catholic rent' of 1d per member per month

Catholic Emancipation

The granting of full political and civil liberties to British and Irish Roman Catholics e.g. the right to sit in parliament

Catholic Relief Act

Act of Parliament passed in 1829 which granted Catholic Emancipation in Great Britain and Ireland. It allowed Roman Catholics to sit as Members of Parliament, but raised the voting qualification in Ireland to £10, thus disenfranchising the 40 shilling freeholders, the majority of whom were Catholics


A working class movement established in 1836, aiming to achieve parliamentary democracy in order to bring about social and economic reform. The Chartists promoted the ‘People’s Charter’ which called for six major changes in the British parliamentary system. The main period of Chartist activity was between 1839 and 1848

Chief Secretary to Ireland

Minister of State, usually sitting in the Cabinet, responsible for Irish affairs. Nominally the second-in-command under the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland

Church of Ireland

Branch of the Anglican (Protestant) church in Ireland

Coercion Bills

General description for a variety of Bills and Acts of Parliament which increased government powers to search, arrest and imprison individuals

Combination Acts

Two Acts of Parliament passed in 1799 and 1800 which prohibited workers from 'combining' together to strike bargains with employers to improve their conditions. Trade unions were therefore made illegal. The laws were repealed in 1824, but replaced by the Combination Act of 1825 which allowed trade unions but placed limits on the right to strike

Common land

Land which was available for any villager to use in order to pasture animals. During the Enclosure process many pieces of common land were divided up between landowners. Poor villagers who did not own land thereby lost their common rights

Conservative Party

British political party which emerged from the old Tory Party during the 1830s


Unpaid officer appointed in his local parish to assist in the maintenance of law and order, local administration, and collection of duties and taxes


All the people entitled to vote for a representative to an elected body, usually council or parliament; OR the geographical area represented by an elected member


Inhabitant of a constituency who is entitled to vote to elect someone to represent them

Continental System

Attempt by Napoleon Bonaparte to destroy Britain's foreign commerce by decreeing a trade embargo. The Continental System was in place from 1806 to 1812

Corn Laws

Laws which restricted the import of corn to Britain by imposing duty upon it. Inflated the prices of wheat, flour and bread. Seen as being a mechanism by which the landowning classes protected their own interests. Repealed by Peel in 1846


The civic authorities of individual boroughs, towns or cities


Elected member of a corporation

Country Party

Political party supporting agricultural interests over manufacturing interests; closely associated with Protectionists


Restriction on an individual's movement in a particular area, usually during the hours of darkness, enforced by local police or magistrates

Custos Rotulorum

Principal justice of the peace for a county, with responsibility for the custody of the records of the commission of the peace


A person who keeps a diary


Protestants who were not members of the Anglican Church of England or Ireland, e.g. Presbyterians, Methodists, Independents or Quakers


Army regiments of soldiers who fought on horseback. A 'light' version of the cavalry. By the middle of the 19th century they were known as 'Hussars'


A person who actively campaigns for support during an election


The process by which the management of farming moved from a communal system, where all the villagers had some rights over village land, to one dominated by private ownership of individual farms. Villagers farmed small strips of land scattered across each of the large open fields in the village. These fields were divided up or 'enclosed' by the enclosure process. Enclosure was often achieved by agreement between landowners, but in the 18th and early 19th century most enclosure was carried out by Act of Parliament


Property (land, stocks or money) owned by or on behalf of ecclesiastical institutions, the profits of which were used to support those institutions and their members

Falkirk Burghs

Scottish parliamentary constituency which returned one member to parliament. They consisted of the towns of Falkirk, Lanark, Airdrie and Linlithgow

Framework Knitting

The process of making hosiery (socks and stockings) or lace using a special frame. The industry was concentrated in the Midland counties of Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire and Leicestershire. Framework knitters often worked in their own homes. By the early 19th century framework knitters were under economic pressure from cheap goods produced on wide factory frames


The right to vote at public elections

40 Shilling Freeholder

In Ireland, a man owning or leasing property worth £2 (40 shillings) per year. Between 1793 and 1829, both Protestant and Catholic 40 shilling freeholders were entitled to vote in parliamentary elections. This qualification was abolished in 1829 and replaced with a £10 qualification

Free Trade

The operation of business and commerce without any form of restriction, for example on imports

General Election

Election in which voting takes place for every constituency represented in the House of Commons at one time, and a government is selected


The lesser nobility - often propertied, but not entitled to sit in the House of Lords


A printed notice which was circulated by hand; many took the form of advertisements or political propaganda

High Sheriff

Originally, the monarch's representative in each county. However, by the 16th and 17th centuries the Sheriff's powers had declined and the role was largely ceremonial

Home Office

Government department, headed by the Home Secretary, with responsibility for internal matters such as law and order

Home Secretary

The minister of state with responsibility for law and order

House of Commons

The ‘lower’ chamber of the British Houses of Parliament composed of elected M.P.s from every constituency in Britain

House of Lords

The ‘upper’ chamber of the British Houses of Parliament. Members of the House of Lords are not elected and include peers of the realm, senior bishops and senior judges


Army regiments of soldiers who fought on horseback. A 'light' version of the cavalry. Originally known as 'dragoons', by the middle of the 19th century they were known as 'Hussars'

Insurrection Act

First enacted in 1796 and periodically revived, the Insurrection Act in Ireland allowed the authorities to grant curfews and search private property in an attempt to stamp out rebellion

Irish Coercion Bill

Bill which would have allowed rule by force in Ireland during times of unrest. Defeated in 1846 bringing about Peel’s resignation

Irish Potato Famine

One of the worst human disasters of the nineteenth century, brought about by successive failures of the potato crop due to potato blight. Insufficient and ineffective relief efforts led to starvation and disease amongst the Irish population

Irish Reform Act

The Representation of the People (Ireland) Act 1832 was the part of the 1st Reform Act, or Great Reform Act, relating to Ireland. It introduced a more uniform voting qualification for Borough elections

Justice of the Peace (JP)

Also known as a 'Magistrate'. An unpaid local official appointed to serve a particular county. Responsible for local administrative matters. Also responsible for dispensing justice in the court of Quarter Sessions, or, less formally, in the court of Petty Sessions

King's County

Now known as County Offaly in Ireland. Parliamentary Constituency which saw a hard-fought election campaign in December 1832

Lord Chancellor

One of the highest offices of state. The Lord Chancellor was appointed by the monarch, and among other duties was the head of the judiciary with overall responsibility for the legal system in Great Britain

Lord Lieutenant

Appointed by the monarch for each county in England and Wales to be his/her representative and uphold the dignity of the Crown. Originally appointed for the maintenance of order and for military purposes, during the nineteenth century they were responsible for the local militia


A political movement which opposed industrialisation and the increased use of new technologies


Also known as a 'J.P.'. An unpaid local official appointed to serve a particular county. Responsible for local administrative matters. Also responsible for dispensing justice in the court of Quarter Sessions, or, less formally, in the court of Petty Sessions

Maynooth College

A Roman Catholic seminary in Ireland which trained Catholic priests. Funded by a grant from the British government

Maynooth Grant

A government grant given to Maynooth College in Ireland which trained Catholic priests. A significant increase in the grant in 1845 caused uproar as it was viewed as undermining the traditional ascendancy of the Anglican Church


Elected leader of a corporation

Member of Parliament

Individual elected to represent a particular constituency within the House of Commons


Nonconformist denomination formed from the Church of England by John Wesley (1703-1791). Its members, known as Methodists, were often agitators for social reform


A military defence force staffed by volunteers. Militia Regiments were established in every English and Welsh county following the Militia Act of 1757


Person holding office within a government department


The period of government under one Prime Minister, e.g. Peel’s second ministry

Municipal Corporations Act

Parliamentary Act introduced in 1835 to reform the working of local councils. Included the abolition of closed corporations, the election of local councils and councillors and the option for towns and cities with no council to apply for incorporation. Opposed by the Tories, who controlled most of the closed corporations

Napoleonic Wars

Wars fought between Great Britain and France during Napoleon Bonaparte's rule of France. War broke out, after a brief period of peace between the two countries, in 1803. The wars ended in 1815 following Napoleon's defeat at the Battle of Waterloo

Newark Constituency

Parliamentary constituency centred on the town of Newark upon Trent in Nottinghamshire. Despite being retained following the 1832 Reform Act, much of the electoral business of the South Nottinghamshire Division was also carried on in Newark


To propose someone as a candidate for an election, or for some form of honour or award


A person who is a member of a Protestant church other than the Church of England

North Nottinghamshire Division

Parliamentary division created by the ‘Great’ Reform Act of 1832. The county was divided into two distinct electoral districts, North and South

Nottingham Review

Newspaper founded in Nottingham in 1808 by Charles Sutton, with Radical sympathies


The Parliamentary party which is not in government

Orange Order

Protestant organisation founded in Ireland in 1795. It was banned by the government between 1823 and 1845


Derogatory term for 'Roman Catholic'


The legislative assembly governing Britain, consisting of the House of Commons and the House of Lords


A sub-group of the Tory Party. Supporters of Sir Robert Peel’s policy of repeal of the Corn Laws. Continued to form an identifiable group within the party for some years afterwards

Petty Sessions

Meetings of two or more magistrates to deal with minor administrative and criminal cases

Pocket Boroughs

Parliamentary constituencies under the control of one or more patrons, who could nominate the candidates who would be offered for election and could also exercise undue influence on the voters


The action of voting at an election or the counting of votes at an election

Poll Book

An official register of votes cast in an election, usually indicating who voted and for whom. Poll books were often published and could contain supplementary information, such as transcripts of speeches, records of election addresses and so on


The casting or recording of votes at an election

Poor Relief

Assistance provided by the parish to its poor, elderly or infirm inhabitants. 'Out relief' or 'outdoor relief' was cash or goods given to those in need. 'Indoor relief' for those unable to look after themselves was provided in a parish house. The system survived from the Poor Law Act of 1601 until the Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834


Derogatory term describing the practices of Roman Catholicism

Prime Minister

The first minister, or leader of an elected government


An assurance obtained from an individual that they would vote in a particular way

Property Qualification

Qualification for office on the basis of possession of a specified amount of money or property. In Britain, a man had to have a certain amount of property before he was allowed to stand for parliament. Reformers argued that interest in standing should be qualification enough


Supported continued protection on imports to Britain and opposed repeal of the Corn Laws. Within the Tory Party, opposed the Peelites


A legal practitioner, often a solicitor. Frequently retained to act as election agents during the nineteenth century


A broad ranging term with a variety of meanings in the early to mid 19th century. In Britain, it was associated with the demands for political change, especially electoral reform, Catholic emancipation and free trade

Ragged Children

'Ragged Schools' were set up by charities from the late 18th century onwards to educate very poor children. The Ragged School Union was set up to encourage more schools in 1844

1798 Rebellion

Uprising against British rule in Ireland by the Society of United Irishmen, led by Theobold Wolfe Tone. In reaction to the rebellion, in 1801, the Irish Parliament was abolished and political Union between the kingdoms of Great Britain and Ireland brought about

1st Reform Act

Also known as the 'Representation of the People Act' and 'The Great Reform Act', it amended the system of parliamentary Representation in Britain. By the Act, passed in 1832, voting rights were extended to previously disenfranchised citizens and representation in parliament was reapportioned. The Act also abolished 'pocket' and 'rotten' boroughs

2nd Reform Act

This Act, passed in 1867, built on the work of the 1st Act and sought to redistribute parliamentary seats more equitably. In urban areas, all men who rented or owned land valued at over £10 were given the vote, and in rural areas, some men who held long leases were also included in the reform

Reform Bill Riots

Riots occurring in various towns and cities throughout Britain following defeat of the Reform Bill in the House of Lords in 1831


Members of the professional armed forces of the army and the navy


The action of withdrawing or rescinding a law or a sentence

Representative Peers

28 members of the Irish aristocracy elected, after 1801, to sit in the British House of Lords for the term of their life

Retford Constituency

Parliamentary constituency centred on the town of Retford in Nottinghamshire. Given two M.P.s under the 1832 Reform Act

Right to Vote

Another term for the franchise; the right to elect a public representative. In the early-nineteenth century this right was restricted to a small section of society. The right was extended as the century wore on

Riot Act

An Act of Parliament intended to deal with law and order problems. It was a serious criminal offence for members of a crowd not to disperse within an hour of the Riot Act of 1715 being read out loud by a magistrate

Rotten Boroughs

Parliamentary constituencies in which an extremely small number of electors had the right to vote for a Member of Parliament


To endorse someone's nomination as a candidate for an election or other form of honour or award

Secretary of State

There were three Secretaries of State in Britain: those for Home Affairs, Foreign Affairs and for the War and Colonies. The term was used here as an alternative title for the Home Secretary

South Nottinghamshire Division

Parliamentary division created by the ‘Great’ Reform Act of 1832. The county was divided into two distinct electoral districts, North and South

Stipendiary Magistrate

A paid magistrate or J.P.

Sunday Schools

Schools, usually on nonconformist chapel premises, which taught Bible study and basic reading and writing skills to children and adults on Sundays. The first Sunday Schools were established in the 1780s


Series of customs duties or taxes on imported items. See also 'Corn Laws'


A person who leases a house or a piece of land for a set period of time. In the early-nineteenth century, tenants were often obliged to vote according to the wishes of their landlord

Test Act

Act of Parliament passed in 1673 requiring all candidates for public office to make an oath of allegiance and take the sacrament of holy communion in accordance with the rites of the Church of England, thus barring non-conformists, Catholics, and members of other religious groups. The Act was repealed in 1828

Tithe Commutation Act

The Irish Tithe Composition Act was passed in 1823, and replaced tithes in kind by monetary payments to the tithe owner. A Bill to amend the Act was introduced unsuccessfully by Mr Goulburn in 1824. A similar Act for England and Wales was passed in 1836


One-tenth of agricultural produce (hay, corn, sheep etc.), given to support the Anglican church. Controversial in Ireland because the bulk of the population were Catholic but had to pay to support Anglican clergy. Sometimes spelt 'Tythes'


British parliamentary party supporting the established religious and political order. Opponents of the Whigs. Gave rise to the Conservative Party in the 1830s

Tractarian Movement

Also called the Oxford Movement, the Tractarian Movement (1833-1845), led by John Henry Newman, Edward Bouverie Pusey and others, sought to revive the Church of England by placing greater emphasis on ritual and ceremony. It developed into modern Anglo-Catholicism.


A form of punishment used from 1717 to 1857. Criminals were shipped overseas for a period of time, often 7 or 14 years. They were sent initially to America, and from 1787 onwards to Australia. During the period of punishment they lived in barracks and were forced to do hard labour or work on farms


'The Union' was a common shorthand for the political union of the kingdoms of Great Britain and Ireland since 1801. Conservatives such as the Duke of Newcastle were in favour of the Union; those wishing to reverse the Union were known as Repealers


Alternative title for the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, the monarch's representative there

Watch and Ward

System to maintain public peace in a particular town or area. The Watch was a night-time guard, and the Ward was the daytime version. In 1812 every able-bodied man was required to take his turn at night-watching


British parliamentary party favouring political, religious and economic reform. Gave rise to the modern Liberal Party


A cavalry defence force, comprising soldiers on horseback, staffed by volunteers. Yeomanry regiments were established in 1804


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Manuscripts and Special Collections

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