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The People’s Voice project explores the role played by poetry and song in campaigns for the extension of the electoral franchise, between 1832 and 1918. By Dr Catriona M.M. Macdonald


The ballot box has been much in evidence in Scotland in recent years, as have reflections on the extent to which politics, 100 years after women (some women) were granted the vote in the UK, are now truly democratic. Scotland’s role in all this is often as the exception that proves the rule: the country that appeared to confirm its loyalty to the UK in 2014 only to reject a Brexit version of UK nationalism in 2016. Both referendum campaigns, however, highlighted that, regardless of the outcome, sentiments distilled beyond the ballot can have long-lasting consequences: demands for ‘IndyRef 2’, for example, have not been silenced.

But what of the political environment in a period when only a minority had the vote: was participatory democracy the exclusive concern of the enfranchised, and if so, did it involve anything more than declaring a preference (remember, the secret ballot was only introduced in 1872), or scratching a cross on a slip of paper?

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About History Scotland

In this packed issue we continue our pioneering new series which focuses on the Stewart queen consorts, exploring the life of Arabella Drummond (c.1350-1401) who played a significant role in governing the country following the incapacity of her husband Robert III of Scots. Also in this issue: · The ‘richest commoner’ and his Barra tenants · Excavations beneath the streets of Inverness · New reconstruction of St Andrew’s Cathedral Plus: Family history advice, archaeology dig reports and finds analysis, National Records of Scotland column and lots more…