The modern UK Parliament can trace its origins all the way back to two features of Anglo-Saxon government from the 8th to 11th centuries. These are the Witan and the moot. The Witan
The Witan was the occasion when the King would call together his leading advisors and nobles to discuss matters affecting the country. It existed only when the King chose and was made up of those individuals whom he particularly summoned. The Witan's main duty was to advise the King, but its assent was not necessary for the King to take action. Nor did it help frame the laws, as the modern Parliament does, but primarily consented to the laws the King had already decided to enact. However, Anglo-Saxon Kings realised that they could not govern their territories without local support from these powerful men, and so began the delicate balancing act between the King's power and the power of those he governed. After the Norman Conquest, Kings of England began to govern through a smaller but permanent inner council of advisers and officials, but occasionally the King would call on additional nobles (earls and barons) and churchmen (bishops and abbots) to gain their approval of his decisions, especially regarding taxation. This larger group of noble advisors especially summoned was known as the Great Council (magnum concilium) and it formed the basis for the modern Upper House of Parliament - today the House of Lords. Moots
Also, under the Anglo-Saxons there had been regular meetings, or moots, for each county (or shire) where cases were heard and local matters discussed. The 'shire moot' was attended by the local lords and bishops, the sheriff, and most importantly, four representatives of each village. After the Conquest, this meeting became known as the County Court and it introduced the idea of representative government at the local level. These two gatherings remained separate for many centuries, but eventually the noble councillors of the Great Council and the local spokesmen of the County Court would combine to make a Parliament of two Houses, the aristocratic Lords and the locally representative Commons.
The first Parliaments
The first known official use of the term Parliament was in 1236. It described the consultative meetings of the English monarch with a large group of his nobles (the earls and barons), and prelates (the bishops and abbots). The word Parliament means an event arranged to talk and discuss things, from the French word "parler". Place to talk
For the first few centuries of its existence Parliament was only an occasion and not an institution. It was called at the whim of the monarch, consisted of whoever he wanted to speak with, met wherever he happened to be, could last as long as he wanted, and had no independent officials of its own. During the 13th century the barons were frequently in revolt against the kings whom they thought were governing the realm badly, that is, against the barons' own wishes. In 1215 King John was forced to agree to Magna Carta, the "great charter" of legal rights which insisted that he listen to and follow the advice of the barons. Radical proposals
Then, at the meeting of Parliament at Oxford in 1258 the barons stated their dissatisfaction with Henry III, and tried to force him to accept a set of conditions called the Provisions of Oxford. These radical proposals called for regular meetings of Parliament three times a year, which should also include 12 non-noble representatives chosen from the counties. Henry III refused to agree to the provisions and war broke out between him and the leader of the barons, Simon de Montfort, who was victorious in 1264. In January 1265 de Montfort called his own Parliament to discuss the peace terms. Simon de Montfort's Parliament
This Parliament is seen as the earliest forerunner of the modern Parliament because it included not only the men who made up the Great Council, but also representatives from each county and from the cities and towns, known as...
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