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Durham University

Research & business

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Petitions, Parliament, and People

A research project of the Department of History, part of the Modern research group.


This research project exploits overlooked sources to reveal the role of parliamentary petitions during an unparalleled period of political change in Britain (circa 1780-1918). Petitioning was by far the most popular form of political participation, but it has long been neglected by historians and social scientists preoccupied with elections and election rituals, campaigns to extend the right to vote, and the rise of national political parties in this period.

Our project, generously supported by the Leverhulme Trust, pairs broad contextualization with case studies to open up a vast, but hitherto neglected, subject, for further enquiry by disciplines within the humanities and social sciences. We want to approach new historical sources with the questions posed by sociologists exploring popular contentions or political scientists examining the reinvention of e-petitioning. We are already engaging with the newly re-established House of Commons Petitions Committee to share historical understanding of petitioning and how it can shape contemporary reinventions of the practice. We are also keen to keep in touch with a network of scholars researching petitions in other societies and times through our Humble Petitioners ( website.


The project is funded by the following grant.

  • Re-thinking Petitions, Parliament And People In The Long Nineteenth Century (£312745.00 from Leverhulme Trust)


In order to advance our project, Durham University has signed an agreement with Proquest LLC. Members of our project team advise Proquest on the creation of an electronic version of the Select Committee on Public Petitions reports, as part of their UK Parliamentary Papers product. Our agreement secures access to the digitised reports and funding for events related to the project. No members of the project team receive sales commission or personal payment from Proquest, and our agreed responsibilities do not involve any commercial input into the project’s research findings and publications.


From the Department of History