Click here to skip to content

Online exhibits: Parliament and People

The United Kingdom is a parliamentary democracy, governed in and through Parliament. There, political issues are debated and political reforms turned into law.

There have been elected parliaments in England since the 13th century. But for most of its history, Parliament was an instrument of monarchical government, not of democracy. It met infrequently, and only at the will of the monarch.

This section explores the period of the Civil War and the Revolution of 1688. The actors in these events were faced with basic questions about the nature of political power. The answers they gave, and the decisions they made, still shape our system of government today.

Some significant stops on the route of Parliament and People

1341 Separation of Commons and Lords
1628 Charles I accepts the Petition of Right
1629 Charles I dissolves Parliament, begins 11 years of personal rule
1641 Irish Rebellion; civil wars in Britain and Ireland
1647 Putney Debates
1649 Charles I executed at Whitehall, London
1649 Agreement of the People
1649-53 Reconquest of Ireland by Cromwell's army
1651 Hobbes's Leviathan published
1653 Oliver Cromwell becomes Lord Protector
1660 Restoration of the Monarchy under Charles II
1688 William and Mary take the throne in the 'Glorious Revolution'
1689 Bill of Rights confirmed by Act of Parliament
1806 Cobbett's Parliamentary History, continued by and later known as Hansard
1852 New Houses of Parliament opened
1909 Operation of Hansard taken over by House of Commons as Official Report
1958 Life Peerages Act give women right to sit and vote in House of Lords
1968 First experiment in sound broadcasting proceedings of the House
1978 Radio broadcasting of proceedings on permanent basis
1989 The House agrees proceedings should be televised
1999 House of Lords Reform: 600 hereditary peers removed from House of Lords, ending their centuries-old dominance of the Second Chamber
2002 Experiment to webcast proceedings in House launched at

Facebook, Twitter

Follow the British Library for news, offers, features, more

Facebook fan page
Twitter feed

Online shop

Books, cards, mugs, CDs, videos, fridge magnets – buy now online