About the project

The People’s Voice: Scottish political poetry, song and the franchise, 1832-1918 is a cross-institutional research project led by Dr Catriona M. M. Macdonald at the University of Glasgow.  This project, which received a major grant from the Carnegie Trust for the Universities of Scotland in 2015, examines the neglected impact that local poetry and song cultures had in Scottish popular politics in the Victorian and Edwardian eras. To achieve a detailed understanding of these roles, the project focuses on the four successful campaigns to extend the electoral franchise in 1832, 1867/8, 1884 and 1918, and plots these campaigns within broader historical narratives.

A key aim of this project was to disinter many of the poems and songs that appeared in Scotland’s periodical press in this period. Although these publications were common sites for local poets to publish in, and nurtured lively song cultures, they had not yet been adequately explored by literary critics or historians. To remedy this, the project assessed archival holdings across various localities in Scotland, including Aberdeen, Ayrshire, Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Paisley and Stirling.

Several resources have been created to promote the study of political poetry as a source for Scottish History and Scottish Literature. A searchable database of every relevant poem found in Scotland’s archives is now available under the ‘resources’ tab on this website, accompanied by an edited anthology of around 50 selected poems and explanatory essays. We organised several events in the course of the project, including an archives event at the National Library of Scotland in May 2016, schools outreach events in 2017, and an academic conference which accompanied the launch of the resources in February 2018. The project’s investigators will also edit an issue of Scottish Literary Review, focusing on Scottish political poetry from this period.