The constituency was a Parliamentary borough in Buckinghamshire, covering part of the small town of Amersham. It is located 27 miles north west of London, in the Chiltern Hills of England. Davis describes it as "a thriving little market town".
The borough was first enfranchised in 1300, but only seems to have sent burgesses to Parliament for a short time. By 1307 it was no longer included in the list of Parliamentary boroughs. In the 17th century a solicitor named William Hakewill, of Lincoln's Inn, rediscovered ancient writs confirming that Amersham, Great Marlow, and Wendover had all sent members to Parliament in the past, and succeeded in re-establishing their privileges (despite the opposition of James I), so that they resumed electing members from the Parliament of 1624. Hakewill himself was elected for Amersham in 1624.
The right of election was held by householders paying scot and lot, a local tax. This was one of the most democratic franchises used in elections to the Unreformed House of Commons. However because this was a small borough, from the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries, it was under the patronage of the Drake family of Shardeloes (an estate about a mile from the town).
In the early eighteenth century there were about 150 electors. Although, at this period, the Drakes did not own most of the houses they were able to nominate candidates for both seats. An anti-Drake element in the electorate supported a candidate in opposition to the Tory candidates promoted by the Drake interest, at elections in 1728, 1734 and 1735. That opposition proved to represent about a third of the electorate.
Thereafter the Drakes enjoyed unchallenged possession of their pocket borough. There was no further sign of the sort of resistance to the dominant interest that broke out from time to time in many similar boroughs.
By the latter half of the eighteenth century the Drakes owned most of the town. The number of voters were reduced to about 70. Elections were all uncontested.
The borough was treated with respect by its patrons. Uncontested elections were accompanied by generous expenditure, estimated by Davis as £350 in the eighteenth century and £600 in the 1820s.
Amersham was one of the boroughs totally disenfranchised by the Reform Act 1832. The 1831 census had shown that the population of the borough was 1,347, and there were 247 houses (although the whole town of Amersham had 360 houses).
Where a party had more than one candidate in one or both of a pair of successive elections change is calculated for each individual candidate, otherwise change is based on the party vote. Change figures at by-elections are from the preceding general election or the last intervening by-election. Change figures at general elections are from the last general election.
Candidates for whom no party has been identified are classified as Non Partisan. The candidate might have been associated with a party or faction in Parliament or considered himself to belong to a particular political tradition. Political parties before the nineteenth century were not as cohesive or organised as they later became. Contemporary commentators (even the reputed leaders of parties or factions) in the eighteenth century did not necessarily agree who the party supporters were. The traditional parties, which had arisen in the late seventeenth century, became increasingly irrelevant to politics in the eighteenth century (particularly after 1760), although for some contests in some constituencies party labels were still used. It was only towards the end of the century that party labels began to acquire some meaning again, although this process was by no means complete for several more generations.
Sources: The results for elections before 1790 were taken from the History of Parliament Trust publications on the House of Commons. The results from 1790 until 1832 are based on Stooks Smith. Where Stooks Smith gives additional information to the other sources this is indicated in a note.
(Note May 1728): Drake, the late MP, had been the owner of the largest interest in the constituency. His heir was a child and the anti-Drake element in the borough took advantage of the opportunity to contest the seat. Only about a third of the votes were cast for the challenger.