Divisions, Tellers and Management in the 17th-Century House of Commons


  • Paul Seaward

  • I am grateful to Stephen Roberts and Andrew Thrush for reading and commenting on this article.


Although we know a certain amount about how governments tried to plan parliamentary sessions in the 17th century, about the managers to whom they entrusted the task, and about the existence of factions and parties within the house of commons, very little is known about the exact operation of such groups – how they tried to secure the result they wanted through working together to manipulate their fellow members and the practice and procedure of the House. A sophisticated level of organisation by the junto in the early 1640s is implied in two polemical sources, and this article investigates whether more can be discovered about organisation and tactics on the floor of the House through a detailed examination of the way divisions were taken across the period. A database of tellers covering four periods within the years 1604–87 has been constructed in order to examine the role, in particular to see whether individuals specialised as tellers. The result shows that a few specific members were extremely active as tellers, although further work would be required to establish whether their activity as tellers can be distinguished from overall activity.