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Uncontested Seats in British General Elections, 1852–1910

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  09 December 2010

Trevor Lloyd
University of Toronto


From the mid-nineteenth century until the First World War the number of seats contested at general elections in the United Kingdom rose sharply though not altogether steadily. This note contains tables of uncontested seats and constituencies for the fifteen elections from 1852 to December 1910; earlier elections have already been tabulated, in a slightly less detailed form, by Professor Gash in Appendix E of his Politics in the Age of Peel, and after 1918 uncontested seats no longer made up a significant part of the total. (It is true that over a hundred seats went uncontested in the Coupon Election of 1918, because the parties in opposition were not prepared for the struggle. But this has little to do with the lack of contests in earlier elections.)

Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1965

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1 Figures for returns are based primarily on MacCalmont's Parliamentary Poll-Book, supplemented by Dod's Parliamentary Companion, especially for the purpose of denning the position of Liberal-Conservatives in the earlier period, and by The Times newspaper.

2 In 1892 fourteen constituencies were contested only by Home Rulers, and in 1895 thirty constituencies (31 seats) were contested only by Home Rulers. These products of the Parnellite split are not listed here.

3 Morley, J., The Life of Gladstone (3 vols., London, 1903), III, 346Google Scholar.

4 The Times, 19 09 1900Google Scholar.

5 Thornton, A. P., The Imperial Idea and its Enemies (London, 1959), p. 110Google Scholar.

6 Churchill, W. S., Lord Randolph Churchill (2 vols., London, 1906), 1, 314Google Scholar.

7 Gladstone, H. J., After Thirty Years (London, 1928), p. 160Google Scholar.

8 Salisbury to Beaconsfield, 7 April 1880, Salisbury Papers.

9 Spofforth, the Conservative party agent, quoted in Hanham, H. J., Elections and Party Management (London, 1959), p. 378Google Scholar.

10 The Times, 23 03 1880Google Scholar.