When politics mattered

We are less than three weeks away from voting, here in the UK on whether we should stay in the European Union or not. I certainly don’t want to be too political, but I do have a firm view based on friendship between nations rather than antagonism and I’ll leave the current debate almost at that. What I’m looking at is a map of the results of a General Election back in 1885. I love maps of all kinds. This flimsy old map joins the ranks of battered old relics.


Politics clearly mattered to some back then. This map, telling people the results, was produced in three versions of which this was the cheapest – a flimsy sheet of paper which cost just one shilling. A person who earned a shilling in 1885 would get something like £41 for the same work today so it wasn’t that cheap.

Just to make a point about lack of change, lets look at an ad on the back for another map.


It sounds as though Turkey in Europe was a talking point then and now!

The map is large and hard to photograph well.


Ireland was, of course, part of the United Kingdom then which meant we had a total of 670 constituencies. Most of England, Wales and Scotland appear to be in red and blue which may seem familiar (in England and Wales) in 2016. But back then red meant liberal.

I’ll now take a look at my constituency – East Wiltshire or Devizes.


It’s coloured blue for Conservative – no change there then!

But the map also has the voting figures, around the edge, and here we have the figures for Wiltshire.


So our MP was W H Long but it was a close run thing for he had less than 100 votes more than W Barber, his Liberal rival. We can see that all the other Wiltshire constituencies returned Liberals. I note with interest that Lord Thynne was the defeated Conservative in Westbury. His descendant has lost more than once standing as a Wessex Nationalist.

But we also note the tiny size of the vote which looks tiny. Well women had not been given the vote in 1885 so that cut potential voters by 50%.. Only two thirds of men were allowed to vote which ended up meaning the electorate was only about 18% of the whole population.

It’s an interesting map which sheds light on some fascinating history. It doesn’t have much to say about the upcoming referendum though.


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One Response to “When politics mattered”

  1. Peter Duffield Says:

    Apparently, until the Edwardian era elections took place over several weeks and newspapers published running totals as the vote went on. This must have had a major effect re: tactical voting – if it were a three-way marginal you’d be tempted to bide your time and see how it was going…

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