Skip to main content

rotten boroughs

rotten boroughs was the term used before 1832 to describe parliamentary constituencies where the voters had almost disappeared. A classic example was Old Sarum, which had been deserted since the inhabitants moved down the valley to Salisbury in 1220. But it was close run by other boroughs, such as Gatton in Surrey, which was down to 20 voters at the Restoration and only two 100 years later, or Dunwich, a once thriving port, which had long since crumbled into the sea. They were defended as affording opportunities for new non-landed interests—brewers, bankers, nabobs—to obtain representation. Chatham (Pitt) denounced them in 1766 as the rotten part of the constitution and declared they would not last the century. Most of them finished up in Schedule A of the Great Reform Act.

J. A. Cannon

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"rotten boroughs." The Oxford Companion to British History. . 21 Jan. 2019 <>.

"rotten boroughs." The Oxford Companion to British History. . (January 21, 2019).

"rotten boroughs." The Oxford Companion to British History. . Retrieved January 21, 2019 from

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

The Chicago Manual of Style

American Psychological Association

  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.