A Thousand Years of Political Development
10661100 England United.
England has been invaded in historic times by Romans, Jutes, Angles, Saxons, Danes, and Normans. The last invasion occurred in 1066 under William the Conqueror. He succeeded in bringing all England under his rule.
11541189 Common Law Established.
In feudal society local barons administered the lawpretty much as they pleased. Henry II appointed trained judges to apply the kings justice equally to all. The jury system was developed at this time, too.
1215 Magna Carta.
King John had overridden the rights of the church, nobility, gentry, and townsfolk. All united to force his assent to Magna Carta. This great charter of liberty required the king to rule according to law.
1295 First Parliament.
Edward I said, What touches all must be approved by all. So he called together representatives of all classes with political rights to confer with him about making laws and levying taxes.
13001400 Parliament Controls Taxation and Lawmaking.
Early Parliaments met only to hear the kings wishes and to present grievances of the people. During this century the power of Parliament grew by practice and precedent.
15001600 Church of England Established.
In the 15th and 16th centuries parts of Europe revolted from the papacy. England became Protestant with its own national and official Church of England. The pope was denied both influence in and revenue from England.
16001700 Struggle between King and ParliamentBill of Rights.
The Stuart kings thought that they were above law and could levy taxes without the consent of Parliament. The struggle that ensuedpart civil war and part revolutioncost Charles I his head and James II his throne. After the right of habeas corpus was established in 1679 citizens could not be imprisoned without trial. In 1688 the Bill of Rights set forth the constitutional supremacy of Parliament over king.
1824 Repeal of Anti-Union Laws.
In 1824 the so-called Combination Laws of 1799 and 1800 were repealed. These had made it illegal for workmen to unite for the purpose of improving their wages, hours, and working conditions.
1829 Political Rights for Catholics and Nonconformists.
Before 1829 only members of the Church of England were allowed to vote, hold office, and the like. Since then these rights of citizenship have not been limited because of religious belief.
1832 The First Reform Bill.
The Reform Bill of 1832 fixed new election districts by population. Rotten boroughs (ghost towns) lost their members of Parliament to new factory cities which had none. Later bills gave the vote to all men.
1911 Payment of Members of Commons.
Power to veto bills passed three times by the popularly elected House of Commons was denied to the hereditary Lords. Salaries provided for members of Commons allowed poor men to run for Parliament.
1918 Votes for Women.