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pocket borough

noun
1.
(before the Reform Bill of 1832) any English borough whose representatives in Parliament were controlled by an individual or family.
2.
an election district under the control of an individual, family, or group.
Origin
1855-1860
1855-60
Dictionary.com Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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British Dictionary definitions for pocket borough

pocket borough

noun
1.
(before the Reform Act of 1832) an English borough constituency controlled by one person or family who owned the land Compare rotten borough
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Encyclopedia Article for pocket borough

election district that is controlled by, or "in the pocket" of, one person or family. The term was used by 19th-century English parliamentary reformers to describe the many boroughs in which a relatively small population was either bribed or coerced by the leading family or landowners to elect their representatives to Parliament. As a result, Parliament was controlled by the landed gentry and seats were filled by representatives who wanted to please their patrons rather than their constituents. Reforms passed in 1832 and 1867 ended this practice by widening the franchise and redistributing parliamentary seats to reflect the population shift from rural areas to the industrial towns.

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Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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