A view of the House of Commons [in 1741-42] by
Benjamin Cole

Members 1754-1790

Published in 1964

The volumes covering 1754-1790 were the first of the History of Parliament's sets to be published. They were compiled under the editorship of Sir Lewis Namier, who wrote a substantial number of the biographies and constituency surveys, although Namier died before he could begin serious work on the survey, and that task was completed by his former research assistant John Brooke.

During this period 1,964 men were elected to the House of Commons (including John Kirkman, returned for London at the general election of 1780, who died six hours before the conclusion of the poll: technically, however, he was a Member of Parliament, because a writ had to be issued for a by-election). As John Brooke explains in the Members section of his Introductory Survey to these volumes, about one fifth of the Members of the House were sons of peers or were themselves Irish peers: and many of the rest were keen to become peers themselves.

The Members include self-made men such as Robert Mackreth, who started his extraordinary career as a waiter at White's Club, married the daughter and heiress of its owner, became himself the owner of the Club, and eventually was returned to Parliament by Lord Orford, it was widely assumed because Orford was in debt to him.  Benjamin Hammet, who is variously believed to have been the son of a Taunton serge maker or a Taunton barber was supposed to have started life as a porter in a London bookshop, became a banker and developer in Taunton, and was elected for his home town in 1782.

Among other trends that are identified is the growth in numbers of 'nabobs' (men who had made money in India through work for or interests in the East India Company),  sitting in the House of Commons over the period. One 'nabob' who did not become a Member of the Commons was Warren Hastings, whose impeachment process began in 1787 and ended with his acquittal in 1795. Another group of men described is the handful of North Americans, some of whom acted as agents on behalf of individual colonies, including, for example, Barlow Trecothick, MP for London 1768-74, who spent his youth and early manhood in America before settling in London, and in 1766 becoming colonial agent for the New Hampshire assembly, jointly with John Thomlinson, in which capacity he gave evidence before the House of Commons in favour of the repeal of the Stamp Act.  West Indians - men with major interests in West Indian plantations, producing sugar with African slave labour - formed a rather larger segment of the House, although smaller than the 'nabobs', and one which, unlike the nabobs, spent little (if any) time in the regions from which they derived most of their wealth. They included three members of the Lascelles family, Edwin, Daniel and Edward, who owned large estates in Barbados, but never seem to have gone there.