Skip to 0 minutes and 1 second1215 and Magna Carta limits the power of the king for the first time, as the Barons lay down the law with King John. In 1258 Simon de Montfort's Great Council and the Provisions of Oxford gave a small group of 'Commoners' a wider hand in governing the realm. Like father, like son, Henry tried to back out of the agreement, prompting a civil war. De Montfort won, and at his 1265 Parliament called representatives from towns and cities together another first. Then the 'Model' Parliament of 1295 gave boroughs and shires two representatives each. 1430 and the vote was given to freeholders of land worth 40 shillings or more. And the Putney Debates of 1647 saw the 'Levellers' argue for voting rights for all.

Skip to 0 minutes and 44 secondsIt was nearly 200 years before the Great Reform Act of 1832 swept away 'rotten boroughs' extending the vote to the new industrial cities. Reforms followed reforms followed reforms and the electorate grew. And in 1918 universal suffrage was finally achieved for men over 21 and women over 30. A decade later, matched at 21. Today every eligible UK citizen over 18 has the right to vote for their representative in Parliament.

A brief history of representation, from monarchy to democracy

Having considered how perceptions of the different roles and responsibilities of the Government and Parliament can sometimes be blurred, it’s important to remember that the UK Parliament has been changing and evolving for over 800 years and continues to evolve today!

While this course is not designed to look in-depth at the history of Parliament, it’s valuable to reflect on how Parliament began. This whistle stop tour looks at the many steps and changes that have taken place in Parliament’s evolving story. Beginning with the signing of Magna Carta in 1215, Parliament has evolved so that everyone eligible to vote can have a say in how the UK is run and who runs it.

After watching the video consider the following questions:

  • How does the story of people’s long struggle for the right to vote make you feel about elections?
  • To what extent do you think people value their right to vote?
  • What changes would you make and why? For example, would you make voting compulsory or lower the voting age?

Share your comments with your fellow learners.

In the steps that follow we will find out more about the House of Commons

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This video is from the free online course:

Introduction to the UK Parliament: People, Processes and Public Participation

Houses of Parliament

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