January 19, 2015

hISTORY ENDED EARLY IN THE ANGLOSPHERE:

Simon de Montfort: The turning point for democracy that gets overlooked  : In June the world will celebrate 800 years since the issuing of Magna Carta. But 2015 is also the anniversary of another important, and far more radical, British milestone in democratic history (Luke Foddy, 1/19/15, BBC Magazine)

Almost exactly 750 years ago, an extraordinary parliament opened in Westminster.

For the very first time, elected representatives from every county and major town in England were invited to parliament on behalf of their local communities.

It was, in the words of one historian, "the House of Commons in embryo".

The January Parliament, which first met on 20 January 1265, is one of the most significant events in British democratic history. The election of two knights from every shire and two burgesses from the towns helped establish the two-member county constituencies that endured until the 20th Century. [...]

The story behind this radical reform is a medieval classic of revolution and rebellion - a drama fuelled by idealism, pragmatism and ambition whose legacy is still felt today.

Circa 1250, Simon de Montfort, Earl of Leicester, wearing a suit of armour and equipped with sword and shield
And like many extraordinary moments in history, it was the product of extraordinary times.

The ruling king in 1265 was Henry III, but Henry wasn't really ruling anything. It was Simon de Montfort, the rebel earl of Leicester, who was in control, having seized power the year before.

Montfort, who called the January Parliament, was the leader of a political faction that sought major reform of the realm. Fed up with Henry's misrule, as they saw it, these barons had confronted the King and, at a parliament in Oxford in 1258, forced him to adhere to a radical programme of reform. This resulted in an appointed council sharing power with the monarch.

These reforms were enshrined in the Provisions of Oxford, which for the first time defined the role of parliament in government.

One of the great historical novels you'll ever read is Sharon Kay Penman's Falls the Shadow.

Posted by at January 19, 2015 1:39 PM
  

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