About the project

‘The People’s Voice: Scottish political poetry, song and the franchise, 1832-1918’ was 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, examined the neglected impact that local poetry and song cultures had on Scottish popular politics in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. To achieve a detailed understanding of this relationship, the project focused on the four successful campaigns to extend the electoral franchise in 1832, 1867/8, 1884 and 1918, and plotted 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 in which local poets published, and they 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 fifty selected poems. Online essays have been commissioned as well as song recordings. You’ll find them all here. 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. A special edition of the Scottish Literary Review in 2018, to which many of the project team have contributed, also highlights related material.