As the seventeenth century progressed, parliamentary elections were increasingly dominated by political divisions rather than gentlemanly agreements. One result of this change was the increased need to win over the electorate by force of argument. Short tracts, distributed freely among electors, remain as the earliest surviving pieces of electoral propaganda.
Englands Remembrancers was a controversial tract pursuing a clear agenda: without naming specific candidates, it opposed the regime of Oliver Cromwell and advocated a policy of religious toleration. By scattering copies about the streets in towns and cities, and encouraging voters to organize meetings to discuss individual candidates and issues, its authors and publishers caused serious concern within the government.
The emergence of political parties made elections tense and fractious, and London’s 1710 contest was particularly controversial. Some commentators alleged that the press exerted undue influence in order to ensure that the Tories took all four seats. The above “poll book” revealed the votes—one for each of the available places—cast by individual voters, as well as the final outcome. It reflected a high turnout (around eighty percent), and a highly polarized electorate.