William Gladstone

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The 'Grand Old Man' of British politics

By Dr Richard Gaunt

William Ewart Gladstone was Prime Minister of Britain and Ireland four times between 1868 and 1894, and in later life was popularly known as the ‘Grand Old Man’.

 Returned to Parliament as MP for Newark, after the Great Reform Act of 1832, Gladstone retained connections with Nottinghamshire after he retired from his seat in 1846.  

 The bicentenary of Gladstone’s birth (December 2009) provided an excellent opportunity to consider these research issues anew and present the findings to a wider public audience. To this end, Dr Richard Gaunt curated an exhibition at the Weston Gallery, University of Nottingham (which ran until March 2010), which explored the strong connections between Gladstone and Nottinghamshire under the title 'W E Gladstone. The Grand Old Man in Nottinghamshire'. 

 Key themes to emerge from the exhibition include:

  • The importance of engaging constituents through electoral activity (canvassing, social events, influence or coercion) even where those constituents lacked formal political representation through the right to vote.
  • The symbolic and practical importance of electoral culture and activity (election songs, party colours or flags, physical confrontations between rival groups of supporters).
  • The continuing association between Gladstone and the county on multiple levels even after his formal political connection with the county ceased; in particular, his importance as a trustee of the Newcastle Estate in the development of Nottingham Castle and Park.
  • Gladstone’s enhanced public profile in satirical cartoons, advertising material and illustrated periodicals of the period.

Dr Gaunt recorded two films, in which he discussed the issues - and artefacts - associated with the exhibition.


 Part 1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wCra7GAiwoo

Part 2:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S_j0QXwm2l0

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