In the past, Cambridge had used its own unique method for selecting its MPs.4 is was modelled on the even more cumbersome system by which the mayor was elected each year. In common with almost every other English borough represented in Parliament, Cambridge was entitled to elect two MPs. On election day, two assessors had been chosen, with the mayor and aldermen nominating one and the common council the other. e assessors withdrew to a separate room and decided which eight members of the corporations were to make the selection. ose eight men then had one hour in which to agree on who should be the two MPs. On some occasions, those two names had been put to the assembled freemen, although, if so, the freemen were clearly expected to do no more than endorse the choices which had already been made for them by their superiors. e rationale underlying this system was that all the members of the corporation, whatever their ranks, would unite behind the choice of their representatives. e actual experience of some of the early seventeenth-century elections had been rather di erent. Instead of promoting unity, the system itself had become the subject of dispute. By 1625 it had therefore been abandoned. From then on, the choice of MP was le to the freemen. In practice, the senior members of the corporation could still pre-empt the result by discouraging anyone except its favoured candidates from standing, but there was never any certainty that such pressure would work and other candidates might neverthe-
less stand in the hope that the freemen would take a di erent view. Cambridge is thus a good example of what Derek Hirst has argued was a general, if rather haphazard, widening of the franchise in borough constituencies throughout England under the early Stuarts.5 ere may have been some within the Cambridge corporation in 1640 who still felt that the freemen had gained too great a say in the process.