Contents of this article
The History of Parliament is a research project creating comprehensive accounts of parliaments, elections and parliamentarians from the thirteenth century to the nineteenth. Unparalleled in the comprehensiveness of its treatment, the History is generally regarded as one of the most ambitious, authoritative and well-researched projects in British history. It consists of detailed studies of elections and electoral politics in each constituency, and of closely researched accounts of the lives of everyone who was elected to Parliament in the period, together with surveys drawing out the themes and discoveries of the research and adding information on the operation of Parliament as an institution.
The online database contains 21,420 member biographies, 2,831 constituency surveys & miscellaneous surveys and articles.
Strengths and weaknesses
The material contained in the History of Parliament is of exceptionally high quality, and provides a comprehensive account of that important institution. However, the online database reflects the way in which the print volumes were researched, written and published over a long period of time. One effect of this is that the database is structured according to the chronological divisions of the print volumes, for example 1690-1715, 1715-54 and so on. The research process has not been a linear one, and consequently there are some gaps in coverage. Material for 1422-1509 and 1640-60, for example, will be unavailable for five or six years. There is no information for the period of Charles I's 'personal rule', when Parliament didn't meet.
In some instances, there will be more than one biography of the same individual, because his time as a Member of Parliament spans more than one of the History's chronological divisions. These biographies may have been written decades apart, so it is advisable to refer to the one which has been most recently published for up-to-date scholarship.
The text of the History of Parliament Online is derived from the printed volumes, and either drawn directly from the typesetters' files or imported from an earlier CD-Rom. It may be searched by keyword, with filtering by field (for example surname and title, constituency), period and date of birth/death. As noted above, the structure of the database also reflects the print volumes.
About the project
The History of Parliament Online is a publication of the History of Parliament Trust, and is maintained by the Institute of Historical Research. The resource is free to access, and new material will be added over time.