Jacob Tillemans: the House of Commons c. 1710 (detail)
(c) Palace of Westminster Collection
Published in 2002
These 1,982 biographies cover all of the men who sat in the Hosue of Commons between the general election of February 1690 and the dissolution of Queen Anne's last Parliament in January 1715. The conventions used are described in detail in the 'Method' section of David Hayton's Introductory Survey. In a section on the Members, the Survey analyses the information contained in the biographies, in particular reviewing their background, age, education, occupation, religion, and their parliamentary experience. As the introduction shows, althought the House of Commons was to some degree representative of the rising professional and business classes of later 17th century England, with lawyers, soldiers, sailors and civil servants, merchants, manufactureres and financiers, it was still overwhelmingly an assembly of landed proprietors. Upward social mobility was possible, but still relatively slow, for men of low birth, except for those very exceptional creatures who rose to the heights of the legal profession,a nd who in a single lifetime could travel as far as Lord Chancellor Peter King, from the obscurity of the provincial bourgeoisie to a peerage. Businessmen, however wealthy, even the financiers to whom the government kow-towed in order to safeguard public creidt, would have to wait for their sons and grandsons to ascend the highest ranks of the social order.