Important events in the history of the British Parliament include the issuing of the Magna Carter, the struggle for parliament's independence from King Charles I, the beginning of record keeping and the rise of Oliver Cromwell. Other key events were the introduction of the Representation of the People Act, the Ballot Act and the election of the first woman to Parliament.Continue Reading
King John issued the Magna Carter in 1215, which declared that everybody including the King was subordinate to the law. It also gave the Barons the right to give counsel to the King in his Great Council. In the 17th Century, parliament fought for its independence from King Charles I in the first English Civil War. King Charles I surrendered in 1646 to end the war.
Oliver Cromwell became the Lord Protector after the civil war, and he annexed Ireland and Scotland into a union with one parliament at Westminster. The 1654 parliament, though short-lived, was the first to have representation from the whole of Britain. 1707 saw a bankrupt Scotland join the English Parliament to prevent a takeover by a Catholic King. Ireland also joined England through an Act of Union.
The enactment of the Representation of the People Act in the 19th Century and its subsequent reforms heralded increased voting rights among the British. The Ballot Act of 1872 introduced voting by secret ballot. A campaign by the Suffragettes saw the first woman elected to the Commons in 1918. Countess Constance Markievicz, however, refused to take her seat. Viscountess Nancy Astor was the first woman to take her seat in 1919.Learn more about Modern Europe