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  More than 5000 entries on the history, culture and life of Britain (published in 1993 by Macmillan, now out of print)

More than 5000 entries on the history, culture and life of Britain (published in 1993 by Macmillan, now out of print)
Tories and Whigs

The two names were first applied to opposing factions in the late 1670s, during the turmoil following the *Popish Plot. The issue was whether the duke of York (the future *James
II) should be excluded from the throne as a Roman Catholic. The opponents of the duke tried various abusive names for his supporters and 'Tory' was the one which stuck. It was an Irish Gaelic word, meaning 'pursuer', and was the common name for Irish outlaws who plundered English settlers; the implication was of someone wild, foreign, Roman Catholic.

The Tories soon found an equivalently offensive term for the other side. 'Whiggamore' was a Scottish Gaelic word, of unknown meaning, used of a group of Presbyterian rebels who had marched on royalist Edinburgh in 1648; the implied characteristics this time were wild, foreign, Nonconformist and probably regicidal as well. The rivalry was a clear extension of the alignments of the *English Civil War, and was recognized as such at the time: 'instead of Cavalier and Roundhead, now they are called Torys and Wiggs', noted a diarist, Oliver Heywood, in 1681.

The distinction between the two groups was somewhat blurred in the years after the *Revolution of 1688 (the change of monarch within the Stuart family had the support of many Tories), but under the next dynasty, the *Hanoverians, the traditional Tory link with the *Stuarts told against the party. The Whigs therefore had an unbroken period of ascendancy after 1714, which the Tories followed with an equally long tenure of office at the end of the century during the reign of *George III.

In the politics of the time allegiance to one side or the other was more often a matter of family or regional loyalty than an issue of principle. In so far as the two parties had an identity, the Whigs were associated with the nobility and the urban middle class, while the Tories had the support of the more traditional country squires. The political scene was transformed by the *Reform Act of 1832, after which the Tories and Whigs evolved into the *Conservative and *Liberal parties.

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