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The evolution of democratic thought in Great Britain

  • Sep 28, 1066

    Norman Conquest

    Norman Conquest
    William the Conqueror invades and defeats King Harold II. Ruling class of England replaced with French speaking monarch and aristocracy. Transformed culture and language, and linked England to continental Europe.
  • Jun 15, 1215

    Magna Carta

    Magna Carta
    Nobles force King John to sign the Magna Carta. Established that the king would not rule with absolute power.
  • Jan 1, 1295

    Edward I calls model parliament

    Edward I calls model parliament
    Edward I becomes first monarch to call parliament. Two representatives from each area are called, in addition to nobles and clergy. Edward I wanted to raise taxes, but inadvertently creates an arena where representatives can air grievances against the crown. Note: this model parliament was unicameral.
  • Jan 1, 1377

    Thomas Hungerford

    Thomas Hungerford
    Thomas Hungerford becomes first person to hold the title Speaker of the House of Commons.
  • Jun 12, 1381

    Peasants' Revolt

    Peasants' Revolt
    As a response to a Poll Tax imposed by King Richard II, Wat Tyler leads thousands of rebels on a march to London, where they storm the Tower of London. Though the revolt was violently put down, the upper classes did become more aware of the plight of the peasants and the Poll Tax was revoked.
  • Jan 1, 1516

    Utopia written by Thomas More

    Utopia written by Thomas More
    Thomas More, a catholic, writes Utopia. In it he sets up an ideal society, with many civil liberties that were unheard of, and even heretical, at the time. In 1535 More is executed.
  • Jan 1, 1534

    Henry VII and the Church

    Henry VII and the Church
    The Act of Supremacy establishes the monarch as the head of the Church of England, severing ties with the Roman Catholic Church.
  • Jan 1, 1536

    Act of Union

    Act of Union
    England and Wales unite under one crown and one set of laws.
  • The Diggers

    The Diggers
    The diggers, begin to set up egalitarian communities throughout England. They focus on economic equality by "leveling" real property. By 1651 all Digger settlements had been dispersed by the authorities.
  • Leviathan

    Thomas Hobbes publishes Leviathan. He argues that a strong central government is essential to avoiding a "war of all against all." Also proposed an early theory of social contract.
  • Battle of Worcester

    Battle of Worcester
    Parliamentarians, led by Oliver Cromwell, defeat Royalists. Charles I is tried and executed. England becomes a commonwealth (1649- 1653), then a protectorate (1653-1659) under Cromwell. Following Cromwell's death, the monarchy is restored under Charles II. Established that manarch cannot rule without Parliament's consent.
  • Habeas Corpus Act

    Habeas Corpus Act
    Established and strengthened the rights of accused. Though amended, the act remains on the statute book to this day.
  • Glorious Revolution

    Glorious Revolution
    After King James II produces a Catholic heir. Tories and Whigs unite in Parliament and invite William of Orange and his wife Mary to take the throne. This reinforced the ideals that came from the English Civil War that a monarch cannot rule without Parliament's consent, and ensured that Britain would remain Protestant (Anglican).
  • Two Treatises of Government

    Two Treatises of Government
    John Locke publishes Two Treatises of Government anonymously. He condemns patriachalism, and promotes ideas of natural rights, social contract. Proposed that civil society was created for the protection of property. Liberalism is born.
  • Bill of Rights

    Bill of Rights
    Parliament passes The Bill of Rights. Establishing inalienable rights of British subjects, Parliamentary sovereignty, and curtailed the power of the monarchy even more. Essentially established Britain as a constitutional monarchy.
  • Bank of England created

    Bank of England created
    The Bank of England is created. Making it the second oldest central bank in the world. It remained privately owned until it was nationalized in 1946.
  • Liberty of unlicensed printing

    Liberty of unlicensed printing
    Removes requirement to obtain a government issued license in order to publish printed works. Though censorship persisted, this was a significant step towards absolute freedom of the press.
  • Act of Settlement

    Act of Settlement
    Regularized procedures for royal succession. Reasserted that monarchs had to govern in accordance to the laws passed by parliament.
  • Treaty of Union

    Treaty of Union
    Unite Scotland and England into a single united kingdom called the United Kingdom of Great Britain.
  • Robert Walpole

    Robert Walpole
    Though the term was not yet recognized, Sir Robert Walpole is widely regarded as having been the first prime minister, due to his leadership and political giftedness
  • Acts of Union (1800)

    Acts of Union (1800)
    United Great Britain and the entire island of Ireland, creating The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.
  • Luddites

    As a response to being put out of work by newly invented automated looms, textile workers raid textile mills and destroy machinery. The rebellion, though suppressed, highlighted the increased economic inequality brought on by the industrial revolution.
  • Spencer Perceval

    Spencer Perceval
    Spencer Percival becomes the only British Prime Minister to be assassinated.
  • Roman Catholic Relief Act

    Roman Catholic Relief Act
    Removed most of the restrictions placed on Catholics in Britain. Allowed for Catholics to sit in Parliament, thus breaking up the cultural hegemony of the ruling elite.
  • First reform Act

    First reform Act
    Increased electorate to aprox. 652,000 or about 7% of the population. Disfranchised 57 rotten boroughs.
  • Second Reform Act

    Second Reform Act
    Enfranchised urban male householders. Still placed income requirements on voters. Aprox. 16% of British population could now vote.
  • The Ballot Act

    The Ballot Act
    Established secret voting, in order to make voters more free from intimidation and bribery. Prior to The Ballot Act, voters had to announce their vote publicly to an officer for recording.
  • Representation of the People Act 1884

    Representation of the People Act 1884
    Granted the vote to men in the country side and to those who pay 10 pounds a year in rental fees. Aprox. 28% of the British public could now vote.
  • Lloyd George's People's Budget

    Lloyd George's People's Budget
    Prime Minister David Lloyd George introduces a series of taxes on luxuries, land, and income. The revenue generated goes to welfare for the ill, injured, and elderly. In 1911 George pushes a bill through Parliament that establishes universal health care.
  • House of Lords looses veto

    House of Lords looses veto
    The house of Lords looses its right to veto legislation. This makes the House of Commons much more influential in determining the course of public policy. Also paves the way for better policy towrds the poor, as the House of Lords was made up of upper class elites.
  • Minimum Wage

    Minimum Wage
    After threats of strike, a minimum wage is set for miners.
  • Representation of the People Act (1918)

    Representation of the People Act (1918)
    Abolished nearly all property requirements for men over 21, and enfranchised women over 30. 74% of the population could now vote.
  • Irish Independence

    Irish Independence
    Ireland becomes independent, while six northern Protestant counties remain a part of Great Britain as Northern Ireland.
  • Labour

    First Labour government. Although the coneservatives won the most seats, Labour was able to form a coalition with the Liberals.
  • Equal Franchise Act

    Equal Franchise Act
    Women over 21 can now vote. 97% of the adult British public can now vote.
  • War coalition

    War coalition
    All three political parties form coalition in order to lead more effectively during World War II. Lasts until 1945.
  • Decolonization in Africa

    Decolonization in Africa
    Sudan gains independence from Britain, followed in 1957 by Ghana. This trend continued until Britain lost its last mainland African colony with the independence of Swaziland in 1968. All and all nearly 20 independent countries are formed form British colonies.
  • Murder (Abolition of Death Penalty) Act 1965

    Murder (Abolition of Death Penalty) Act 1965
    The death penalty is suspended in Britain for five years. In 1969 the suspension is made permanent.
  • Civil Rights

    Civil Rights
    In two separate acts, Parliament legalizes abortion and homosexuality.
  • Representation of the People Act 1969

    Representation of the People Act 1969
    Lowers voting age to 18
  • Winter of discontent

    Winter of discontent
    Widespread public sector strikes, and the Labour government's inability to resolve them, leads to the election of Margaret Thatcher. Thatcher ushers in an era of new conservatism in Britain, called the "new right". Thatcher promotes deregulation, privatization, limited union power, and social conservatism.
  • Parliament is televised

    Parliament is televised
    For the first time Britains can see their legislative body at work.
  • House of Lords

    House of Lords
    The House of Lords removes most hereditary peers. This prevents people with hereditary titles from having a seat in the House of Lords without being elected.
  • Constitutional Reform Act

    Constitutional Reform Act
    Removes the position of Speaker of the House of Lords, and establishes a Supreme Court.
  • Edgar the Peaceful

    Edgar the Peaceful
    Edgar the Peaceful becomes first king of a united England