"Keeping It In the Family - Political patronage in early 19th Century Nottinghamshire "
September 2012 Meeting Report
Speaker - Dr Richard Gaunt
In many respects, England was a society based upon patronage in the 18th and 19th Century. The traditional privileges of the ruling class - titled, landed, wealthy and possessed of major powers of nomination and recommendation in respect of the church, the law and parliament - continued to be enjoyed in spite of attempts to curb them through measures such as the 1832 Reform Act. Dr Richard Gaunt explored the political dimensions of patronage in the period between the French Revolution and the mid-nineteenth century, concentrating on the influence exercised in Nottinghamshire's parliamentary boroughs by the 4th Duke of Newcastle (his specialist research interest). Newcastle was a noted Ultra-Tory who brooked no opposition to his political views from those he returned to parliament, whether they had paid their way into parliament or come in through blood ties to the Duke. Using a wide range of case-studies drawn from Newcastle's use and deployment of patronage, we saw how the Duke gradually changed from returning family members to those who supported his political views. The outcomes were not all bad: both Michael Sadler (the factory reformer) and William Gladstone (the later Liberal Prime Minister) came into politics through this means. Dr Gaunt concluded that patronage is still with us but had been replaced with political parties, the patronage of the prime minister and the like. Whilst Newcastle was the most extreme example of patronage exercised as a "right", he was by no means unique in the context of the Dukeries of Nottinghamshire in the early-nineteenth century.