This word for the political campaign trail is originally Scandinavian in origin. In Scandinavian languages the word þing is used to refer to a meeting or deliberative body. Hence you have the Alþing, or Icelandic parliament. Old English adopted the word husting, literally house meeting. From the Old English Chronicle, sometime before 1030:
Hi genamon þa ðone biscop, læddon hine to hiora hustinge.
(They named then the bishop, leading the households to the husting.)
Before written ballots were adopted in Great Britain in 1872, candidates for parliament would meet with the electorate at a husting and the votes would be counted. From Thomas D’Urfey’s Wit and Mirth: Or Pills To Purge Melancholy from 1719:
What tricks on the Hustings Fanatics would play.
The word survives today in the sense of any place where a candidate meets with the electorate.
(Source: Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd Edition)
Copyright 1997-2013, by David Wilton