This constituency was one of seven to refuse to return a Conservative cabinet minister to the House of Commons. Voters refused to back Tony Newton, the then leader of the House, and elected Labourís Alan Hurst instead.
The seat has quite a rural flavour to it, although the two main towns - Braintree and Witham - retain traditional manufacturing industries, particularly engineering, and have attracted new industries and office developments, in recent years.
The town of Braintree itself boasts a museum about the district and a Working Silk Museum. Witham was home to the author Dorothy L Sayers, and there is a centre within Withamís Library dedicated to her.
There have been settlements in the constituency for centuries, as is demonstrated by the existence of the Roman road, Stane Street, which runs through part of the seat, linking Colchester and St Albans.