Britain, australia and the secret ballot act of 1872

Document Type

Journal Article

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PubMed ID



Blackwell Publishing Ltd


Originally published as: Jaggard, E. (2019). Britain, australia and the secret ballot act of 1872. History, 104(360). Original article available here


Voting by secret ballot was successfully introduced into Britain in 1872, copying several key features of the ballot that had been developed earlier in the Australian colonies, and replacing open (public) voting in parliamentary elections. How this occurred, how the ballot was transplanted to Britain, has generally attracted no more than passing comment, even in the most recent comparative studies of the ballot’s appearance in several countries including Britain. This article focuses upon the ways in which the colonial examples had a singular impact in Britain: during annual parliamentary debates on the topic from 1857 to 1867 and thereafter; in evidence given to the 1868–9 Select Committee on Parliamentary and Municipal Elections; and through the colonial governors’ reports on the success or failure of the ballot after it was employed at elections. It therefore is a case study of a transnational process, one in which borrowing from abroad was paramount wherever the secret ballot was adopted. ©2019 The Historical Association and John Wiley & Sons Ltd.