The anatomy of an eviction campaign: the general election of 1868 in Wales and its aftermath

Cragoe, Matthew (1998) The anatomy of an eviction campaign: the general election of 1868 in Wales and its aftermath. Rural History, 9 (2). pp. 177-193. ISSN 0956-7933

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Abstract

In this article, an attempt will be made to gauge the true extent of landlord intimidation in the principality through a detailed examination of the evictions following the 1868 election. Whilst the idea that landlords coerced their tenants at election time was regarded as axiomatic by Victorian radicals, they never produced much hard and fast evidence to support their claims. The 1868 election in Wales, however, is remarkable for having produced just such a detailed account. A well-known Welsh journalist, John Griffith, toured the afflicted counties of Carmarthenshire and Cardiganshire in the winter of 1869-70 and drew up a series of reports which were published by a Liberal newspaper, the Cambria Daily Leader. His reports gave the names and addresses of both the evicted tenant and the evicting landlord, along with details of each case designed to show that the only cause of the eviction notice having been served was the tenant's Liberal vote at the election. What makes this series of reports so valuable, however, is that a Conservative newspaper, the Welshman, reproduced the reports and invited the accused landowners to respond to the charges made against them. The reports and the landowners' replies form a body of contemporary evidence which has not hitherto been examined and presents a unique opportunity to explore both sides of an alleged evictioni campaign in considerable detail. Sbove all, it provides a solid foundation for judging whether the Welsh landlords deserve their harsh historiographical reputation. In order to set the Welsh material in its proper context, the article begins by examining the whole issue of evictions in England, Scotland, and Ireland in the Victorian period. In the second section, the article examines the place of the idea of landlord coercion within the electoral rhetoric of Welsh Liberals. The specific charges made against the landlords in 1869 are then analysed in the context both of the reports prepared by Griffith and of the responses made to them by the landowners. The article concludes that, although there were conditions under which Welsh landlords were prepared to evict tenants for 'political' reasons, the pattern of landlord-tenant relations in the principality was generally good, and that an historiographical revision in line with that undertaken for other parts of the UK is overdue.

Item Type: Article
Schools and Departments: School of History, Art History and Philosophy > History
Subjects: D History General and Old World > DA History of Great Britain > DA700 Wales
Depositing User: Matthew Cragoe
Date Deposited: 06 Feb 2012 20:32
Last Modified: 16 Aug 2012 10:52
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/26449
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