1874 United Kingdom general election

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1874 United Kingdom general election
Flag of the United Kingdom.svg
  1868 31 January – 17 February 1874 (1874-01-31 1874-02-17) 1880  

All 652 seats in the House of Commons
327 seats needed for a majority
 First partySecond partyThird party
  Benjamin Disraeli by Cornelius Jabez Hughes, 1878.jpg William Ewart Gladstone by Elliott & Fry - March 1879.jpg Portrait of Isaac Butt.jpg
Leader Benjamin Disraeli William Ewart Gladstone Isaac Butt
Party Conservative Liberal Home Rule
Leader since27 February 18683 December 1868November 1873
Leader's seat Buckinghamshire Greenwich Limerick City
Last election271 seats, 38.7%387 seats, 61.2%Did not contest
Seats won35024260
Seat changeIncrease2.svg79Decrease2.svg145Increase2.svg60
Popular vote1,091,7081,281,15990,234
SwingIncrease2.svg5.6%Decrease2.svg9.2%New party

United Kingdom general election 1874.svg
Colours denote the winning party

Prime Minister before election

William Ewart Gladstone

Prime Minister after election

Benjamin Disraeli

The 1874 United Kingdom general election saw the incumbent Liberals, led by William Ewart Gladstone, lose decisively, even though it won a majority of the votes cast. [1] Benjamin Disraeli's Conservatives won the majority of seats in the House of Commons, largely because they won a number of uncontested seats. It was the first Conservative victory in a general election since 1841. Gladstone's decision to call an election surprised his colleagues, for they were aware of large sectors of discontent in their coalition. For example, the nonconformists were upset with education policies; many working-class people disliked the new trade union laws and the restrictions on drinking. The Conservatives were making gains in the middle-class, Gladstone wanted to abolish the income tax, but failed to carry his own cabinet. The result was a disaster for the Liberals, who went from 387 MPs to only 242. Conservatives jumped from 271 to 350. For the first time the Irish nationalists would be elected. Gladstone himself noted: "We have been swept away in a torrent of gin and beer" [2]


The election saw the Irish of the Home Rule League become the first significant third party in Parliament, with 60 of 101 of the seats for Ireland. This had been the first general election that used a secret ballot following the 1872 Secret Ballot Act. The Irish Nationalist gains could well be attributed to the effects of the Secret Ballot Act as tenants faced less of a threat of eviction if they voted against the wishes of their landlords. In this election also, the first two working-class MPs were elected: Alexander MacDonald and Thomas Burt, both members of the Miners' Union, were elected as Liberal-Labour (Lib–Lab) MPs in Stafford and Morpeth, respectively. [3] The 1867 Reform Act eroded the legislative power of the rural gentry. The 1874 election, especially in Ireland, saw great landowners losing their county seats to tenant farmers. [4]

This is the only time since the introduction of the secret ballot that a party has been defeated despite receiving an absolute majority of the popular vote. This was primarily because over 100 Conservative candidates were elected unopposed. This meant no votes were cast in those 100 places where the Conservative candidates were anticipated to be popular; in the seats where Liberal candidates did stand, they polled a high proportion of the vote on average.

The election saw 652 MPs elected, 6 fewer than at the previous election. Following allegations of corruption the Conservative-held constituencies of Beverley and Sligo Borough, and the Liberal-held constituencies of Bridgwater and Cashel, had been abolished.


1874 UK parliament.svg
UK General Election 1874
StoodElectedGainedUnseatedNet% of total%No.Net %
  Liberal 48924213937.1251.951,281,1599.5
  Conservative 507350+7953.6844.271,091,708+5.9
  Home Rule 806000+609.203.6690,234N/A

Voting summary

Popular vote
Home Rule

Seats summary

Parliamentary seats
Home Rule

Regional results

Great Britain

PartySeatsSeats changeVotes%% change
Conservative 319Increase2.svg851,000,00644.6
Liberal 230Decrease2.svg931,241,38155.4
Lib-Lab 2Increase2.svg2
PartySeatsSeats changeVotes%% change
Conservative 280Increase2.svg69905,23946.2
Liberal 171Decrease2.svg751,035,26853.8
Lib-Lab 2Increase2.svg2
PartySeatsSeats changeVotes%% change
Liberal 40Decrease2.svg11148,34568.4
Conservative 18Increase2.svg1163,19331.6
PartySeatsSeats changeVotes%% change
Liberal 19Decrease2.svg457,76860.9
Conservative 14Increase2.svg431,57439.1


PartySeatsSeats changeVotes%% change
Home Rule 60Increase2.svg6090,23439.6New.png
Irish Conservative 31Decrease2.svg691,70240.81.1%
Liberal 10Decrease2.svg5639,77818.439.5%


PartySeatsSeats changeVotes%% change
Conservative 7Increase2.svg1
Liberal 2Decrease2.svg1


  1. William Henry Maehl, "Gladstone, the Liberals, and the Election of 1874", Historical Research (1963), 36#93: 53–69.
  2. ( Roberts 2001 , p. 332).
  3. Whitfield, Bob (2001). The Extension of the Franchise, 1832-1931. Heinemann. p. 240. ISBN   9780435327170.
  4. David F. Krein, "The Great Landowners in the House of Commons, 1833–85." Parliamentary History 32.3 (2013): 460-476.
  5. "Others" include the Catholic Union.

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