H&P has prepared a glossary to explain historical terms that are not in common use today. This is designed for readers of H&P's policy papers, opinion articles and Number 10 guest historian features, as well as students, journalists and policy makers.

All entries have been prepared by the editors of H&P's Number 10 guest historian series: Whitfield prize-winner Dr Ben Griffin and Dr Andrew Thompson of Cambridge University and Dr Andrew Blick, of King's College London.


Scottish Parliament

The representative body of Scotland from the thirteenth century through to the Act of Union with England in 1707, and since 1999 Scotland's devolved legislature. Prior to 1707 it consisted of the three estates of clerics, lay tenants-in-chief and burgh commissioners meeting within a single chamber. Scottish constituencies were created for the Westminster parliament after 1707 and arrangements for Scottish representative peers were also made.

Scottish representative peers

A group of sixteen peers elected to represent Scottish interests in the House of Lords. The Act of Union (1707) abolished the Scottish Parliament. While new constituencies enabled Scotland to send MPs to Westminster, a different arrangement was made to cope with Scottish peers, with sixteen elected for each parliamentary session. The practice continued until 1963 when all Scottish hereditary peers were granted the right to sit in the House of Lords. Similar arrangements were made following the Act of Union (1800) with Ireland, allowing twenty-eight Irish peers to be elected to the Lords. Unlike in the Scottish case, these peers were elected for life, rather than a single parliamentary session.

Secretary of State for the Northern or Southern department

The Secretaries of State, along with the First Lord of the Treasury, were the most important Ministers in the eighteenth century. Their remit included both foreign and domestic affairs. The courts of Europe were divided geographically, determining whether it was the Northern or Southern Secretary who was responsible for Britain's relations with them. The growing importance of imperial affairs was apparent with the creation of a separate Secretary of State for the Colonies out of the Southern Department in 1768. This first incarnation lasted until 1782 when there was a significant structural reorganisation and the Northern and Southern Secretaryships were abolished and replaced by a new Foreign Secretary and Home and Colonial Secretary.

Secret influence

The claim made by supporters of the Marquess of Rockingham in the 1760s that their ability to form a stable government was being undermined by external forces. Irritated that the monopoly on office of the Old Corps Whigs had been broken, they looked for sinister explanations of their fate. Generally, they attributed their poor relationship with George III to the influence of Lord Bute. Although Bute's tenure in office was short, the Rockinghamites claimed that he continued to exert covert influence on the King.

Seven Years War

The Seven Years War (1756-63) was a conflict involving Russia, the Habsburg monarchy and France on one side and Britain and Prussia on the other. The Habsburgs were keen to expel Frederick II of Prussia from Silesia. The Anglo-French component of the conflict played out in north-western Germany, India, the Caribbean and in North America. William Pitt the elder and the Duke of Newcastle led a British administration that was able to secure considerable victories at Minden, Quebec and Quiberon Bay in 1759. The extent of British victory led to disputes about how best to win the peace and disagreements about Britain's continued involvement in the European war, once colonial objectives had been secured.


An office that produces income but requires minimal activity on behalf of the officeholder. Abolishing sinecures, which were frequently a reward for loyalty or to win influence, was one of the aims of economical reform.

Stamp duty

A tax levied on documents, now typically associated with property sales. The imposition of a duty on legal documents and newspapers through the Stamp Act (1765) was one of the causes of increased tension between Britain and the American colonies in the period prior to the American War of Independence. The government wished to off-set the costs of the Seven Years War by getting the colonists to contribute towards imperial defence. The colonists were adamant that there should be 'no taxation without representation'. While many in Parliament disagreed about the means of taxing the colonists, few doubted that Parliament had the right to do so.


The ruling dynasty in Scotland and England from 1603 until 1688. Following James II's deposition in 1688, the Stuarts went into exile. Their supporters were known as Jacobites.

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