Parliamentary history was originally the domain of liberal members of parliaments, who were also interested in the meaning of parliamentary representation. It was only after the Second World War that it turned into a professional genre, concentrating on institutions that had become self-evident. The ‘linguistic turn’ and ‘cultural turn’ have recently brought the issue of representation back onto the historical agenda and a new interest in parliamentary representation has been developing. The contributions to this issue show, that this has also stimulated research into pre-1800 forms of representation, and the continuities and discontinuities involved. Examples from abroad are also drawn upon: parliaments are not exclusively ‘national’ institutions. They all discuss the nature of parliamentary representation, and show that empirical study of parliaments and theoretical study of representation can reinforce each other.