Lesson 6: How Did Constitutional Government Develop in Great Britain?


common law  The body of unwritten law developed in England from judicial decisions based on custom and earlier judicial decisions, which constitutes the basis of the English legal system and became part of American law.

English Bill of Rights  An act passed by Parliament in 1689 that limited the power of the monarch. This document established Parliament as the most powerful branch of the English government.

feudalism  A system of social, economic, and political organizations in which a politically weak king or queen shared power with the nobility. The nobility required work and services from the common people in return for allowing them to live on and make use of the noble's land and benefit from the noble's protection.

Magna Carta  This document, also known as the Great Charter, was agreed to by King John of England in 1215 at the demand of his barons. The Magna Carta granted certain civil rights and liberties to English nobles, such as the right to a jury of one's peers and the guarantee against loss of life, liberty, or property, except in accordance with law. In doing so, it also limited the power of the monarch. The document is a landmark in the history of limited constitutional government.

Parliament  The British legislature, which consists of two houses: the House of Lords, representing the nobility, most of whose appointments are no longer hereditary, and the House of Commons, representing the people.

Petition of Rights (1628)  A statute that limited the English monarch's power to tax people without the consent of Parliament and guaranteed certain rights to English subjects.

rights of Englishmen  Basic legal claims established over time, that all subjects of the English monarch were understood to have. They included the right not to be kept in prison without a trial and the right to trial by jury.

rule of law  The principle that both those who govern and those who are governed must obey the law and are subject to the same laws. This principle is contrasted to the "rule of men," in which those in power make up the rules as they please.

subject  Someone who owes allegiance to a government or ruler.