a1 University College London
This article reassesses the political career of Sir Edward Dering (d. 1644), a prominent but extremely controversial MP during the Long Parliament, who has fascinated historians because of the way in which he appears to have ‘defected’ from the cause of political and religious reform, who was eventually expelled from the Commons for publishing his parliamentary speeches, and who briefly flirted with royalism before making a humiliating return to Westminster. It does so by focusing upon his relationship with the public, in terms of how he courted popular support in order to secure election, and how people followed his subsequent parliamentary career, not least through the circulation of scribal and printed texts. It highlights how constituents (and others) responded to such activity, not least by making clear what policies he was expected to promote, thereby revealing that Dering's career was driven not just by his own political and religious views, but also by ideas about his role as an MP, and about his relationship with his constituents. Dering thus provides a rare opportunity to scrutinize the dynamic relationships between MPs and the public, thereby revealing hitherto neglected evidence about transformations in political culture and ideas regarding representation.
* I am grateful to Dr Bill Bulman, to members of seminars in Cambridge, Liverpool and London, and to delegates at the North American Conference of British Studies in San Francisco, for generous and helpful comments upon earlier versions of this article.