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The Anatomy of an Eviction Campaign: The General Election of 1868 in Wales and its Aftermath

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  31 October 2008

Matthew Cragoe
Affiliation:
University of Hertfordshire, Watford, UK.

Extract

One of the most striking aspects of recent scholarship concerning electoral politics in the Victorian countryside is the widespread consensus that has developed that landlords did not – as was so commonly averred by Radical politicians at the time – use the threat of eviction as a weapon with which to terrorise farming tenants into voting as they were instructed. In the work of Norman Gash, Richard Olney and Frank O'Gorman, English tenants are represented as being quite happy to follow the lead offered them by their landlords, both from a ‘semi-feudal’ sense of loyalty and from a sense of gratitude for past favours and the hope of further favours to come. Even in Ireland, where a historiography dominated by Pomfret presented a much bleaker picture of landlord-tenant relations, the process of revision has considerably modified the received view. J. H. Whyte has argued that the landowners were far less tyrannical than had been generally thought, and regards as particularly erroneous the idea that landlords had regular recourse to eviction to punish tenants who had voted contrary to their wishes. This policy was not used, he suggests, because it patently did not work. Whyte's insights, though they have been modified in certain respects, were recently upheld in W. E. Vaughan's study of landlord and tenant relations in mid-Victorian Ireland. The history of politics in the Irish countryside is thus seen as having approximated that of England, and recent scholarship suggests a similar picture for Lowland Scotland, where, outside the Famine years, patterns of eviction were similar to those in Ireland. In only one country do the landowners still retain intact their reputation for electoral tyranny: Wales.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1998

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