Chapter 10 Lesson 4- Changes in Government and Economics

Changes in Government and Economics

Terms and Names

Build on What You Know In Lesson 3, you read about events that weakened European feudalism. In this lesson, you will study legal and constitutional practices of England from the 12th and 13th centuries that are still important today. 

Here are some terms and names you should be familiar with.

The English Government

ESSENTIAL QUESTION 1 What were some of the new ideas about government in England? The legal practices of medieval England are the foundations of many modern legal practices. Common Law King Henry II (1154–1189) brought consistency to England’s legal system by sending royal judges to every part of the country. In the early 1100s, court decisions were based on local customs and previous rulings. This was called common law, and it meant the decisions in one part of England could be different from those in another part of England. The decisions of the new royal judges, however, were intended to apply to all of England. The royal laws made it more likely that people all over England would receive equal treatment.

King John King John is shown here signing the Magna Carta, a document that would influence governments for many years to come. ▼

This was called , and it meant the decisions in one part of England could be different from those in another part of England.

Independent Courts

Independent Courts The royal judges were meant to be independent from local politics. However, they were not independent from the royal government. English medieval courts were very different from courts today. For example, U.S. courts are independent from the other parts of the government. This is called an independent judiciary, which you will read more about later in this chapter.

Magna Carta In 1199, the youngest of Henry II’s sons, John, came to power.  King John fought, and lost, many wars. The wars weakened England financially. Many barons, members of England’s nobility, grew tired of John’s policies. They told John that he must recognize their rights. They listed these rights in a document called the Magna Carta  and forced John to sign it in 1215.

The Magna Carta guaranteed the protection of the law and trial by jury. It also guaranteed that the king could not collect money from the nobles without their approval. Ordinary English people did not immediately benefit from the Magna Carta. The Magna Carta did, however, set an example for later democratic developments in England and around the world. In Chapter 16, you will read more about how the Magna Carta influenced later democratic thought.

Image result for magna cartaESSENTIAL QUESTION 1- What were some of the new ideas about government in England? Royal , protection by law, trial by  

REVIEW How did new legal practices develop in England? slowly over a period of time

Magna Carta


More About . . . The Magna Carta

Although the Magna Carta is often seen solely as a statement of rights, its 63 provisions cover many more issues as well. The freedom of the church, the protection of landholders and tenants, and financial matters related to towns and trade make up the first part of the document.

The next block of clauses is the key group, the one relating to the guarantee of people’s rights and the reform of the law. In fact, this group is the only one still on the law books. The rest of the charter deals with the behavior of royal officials, the royal forests, miscellaneous issues such as the dismissal of mercenaries, and finally the safeguarding of the charter by the appointment of a council of barons.

The Magna Carta is often seen solely as a statement of  

Representative Institutions

ESSENTIAL QUESTION 2-  How did new ideas in politics change the government of England?

Political practices of medieval England are seen by some historians as the foundation of modern representative governments.

A New Governing Body An important step toward representative government came in 1264. English nobles removed King Henry III from the throne after he broke an agreement with them. They replaced him with a group of representatives, which would later be called a parliament. The parliament included nobility, high-ranking church officials, and representatives from cities and towns.

Henry’s son Edward I took back the throne in 1265, but he did not get rid of Parliament because he needed its political support. In 1295, a parliament was assembled that is widely considered the first truly representative parliament. It is known as the Model Parliament. Representatives from every county, district, and city were assembled. Edward called for parliaments throughout his reign. By the time he died in 1307, Parliament was an important part of English politics. But Parliament’s powers were still not totally clear. 

King Edward pictured below

Image result for king edward 1

English nobles King Henry III from the throne after he broke an agreement with them.

Parliament's Powers

Parliament’s Powers Parliament formed two houses, or groups, to govern the country: the House of Commons and the House of Lords. Parliament would eventually control the collection of taxes. As a result, it could limit the power of the English monarchy. Parliament was also eventually able to introduce and pass laws. The king could not declare new laws without Parliament’s approval.

Parliament’s power grew slowly. The changes mentioned above took centuries to develop. Wars were even fought over the question of Parliament’s authority. But the legal and constitutional practices of medieval England would be a guide to later political thinkers.

Edward I’s Parliament This page from a 14th century manuscript shows England’s King Edward I supervising his newly formed parliament. ▼
ESSENTIAL QUESTION 2 How did new ideas in politics change the government of England?  Parliament's power slowly .

REVIEW How did Parliament limit the power of the king? by controlling the collection of and, eventually, by controlling what could be passed

Rise of Modern Democratic Thought

ESSENTIAL QUESTION 3- What are some modern legal or political ideas that have their roots in medieval England?

Independent judiciaries, citizens’ rights, and democratic forms of government did not exist in medieval England as we know them today. Like Parliament, developing these ideas and institutions would take centuries. During their development, however, the legal and constitutional practices of medieval England often became a guide.

Independent Judiciaries Independent judiciaries have developed around the world. In many countries, the courts are independent from other branches of government and can make sure there is a balance of power. For example, the courts can prevent government from passing laws that violate the rights of citizens.

One legal right that probably started in medieval England is habeas corpus. This is the right people have to not be imprisoned unlawfully. In modern courts, habeas corpus requires authorities to provide legal proof for why a person is being imprisoned.

Rights listed in the Magna Carta mainly affected English nobles. Later politicians expanded the Magna Carta’s use. For example, the barons said that King John must consult them when he needed money. Centuries later, English parliaments argued that this meant the king could not ask for taxes without Parliament’s agreement. 

England’s Parliament The English parliament is still officially led by a monarch. Queen Elizabeth II, seated, is shown in the middle of this photograph. ▼
Habeas corpus  is the right people have to not be imprisoned .

Representative Government

Representative Government A government elected by the people to represent their interests is a representative government. Representative governments that try to include all members of society are a relatively recent development. A majority of English men could not vote for members of Parliament until the 1800s. In the United States, women could not vote until 1920, and many African Americans were effectively prevented from voting through the 1960s. When reading history, it is important to remember that developments often occurred over tens, hundreds, or even thousands of years. 

ESSENTIAL QUESTION 3- What are some modern legal or political ideas that have their roots in medieval England? independent judiciaries, , representative government

REVIEW Why are independent courts important to some modern governments? They can check the power of the other branches of  

Lesson Summary

Lesson Summary

• In medieval England, new legal developments established a pattern for the rule of law. 

• Political developments in medieval England laid the foundation for representative government. 

• Later democratic ideas and institutions used the legal and political changes of medieval England as a guide.

Why It Matters Now . . . Many of the legal and political ideas that exist today have their foundation in medieval England.

Terms Quiz

  • King John
    English monarch who ascended the throne in 1199 and was forced to sign the Magna Cart
  • Magna Carta
    document guaranteeing certain rights to nobles
  • parliament
    group of representatives in English government
  • habeas corpuslly
    right of people not to be imprisoned unlawfully