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A Borough is an administrative division, usually a town or sometimes village, with the right to elect a member to Parliament.

A Rotten borough refers to a borough whose population had declined over the centuries to the point that only a handful of residents remained, yet still retained the right to elect an MP. These electors were easily bribed or influence to vote in favour of one candidate.

Pocket borough referred to a Rotten borough whose residents were the clients of a (typically) aristocratic patron. The patron thus had a parliamentary seat "in his pocket", that is the ability to fill it as he saw fit. Jack Aubrey's cousin, Edward Norton, owned the pocket borough of Milport, which was filled first by Jack's father, General Aubrey, and later by Jack.

The Reform Act of 1832 effectively abolished these practices, as it disenfranchised most rotten boroughs and distributed their representation to larger population centers and industrialized areas.

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