History of Government and Politics in Britain.

The History of British Government, Parliament and Politics and its wider impact on the history of Britain.


Edwardian Era

Lloyd George presents his budget 1909

Parliament will train you to talk and above all other things to hear with patience unlimited quantities of foolish talk.
Thomas Carlyle

The Glorious Revolution of 1688, in which the King of England King James II was overthrown, was the beginning of a new era of politics. William of Orange agreed to work in a co-operative way with Parliament that brought to an end the idea of the controlling authority of the monarch.

Not all Parliamentarians were in agreement with this though and two factions evolved. The Tories and the Whigs.

The Tories were for Royalty and keeping things as they were, the Whigs for giving more power to Parliament and wanted reform.

The single British Parliament grew out of the Act of Union in 1707  when the assemblies of England and Scotland were dissolved. The power of Parliament increased and the parliamentary party system began to emerge.

The opposition between the Whigs and the Tories was to become the basis on which Parliamentary debate would be enacted and out of which would emerge our political leaders. You can find a list of British prime ministers here and discover more about who these leaders were by clicking on the link.

Men and women's suffrage changed the face of British society. It was hard fought for by our ancestors and a long time coming.

The emergence of the Labour Party in 1900, born out of the trade union movement of the late C19th and out of the social reforming agencies that found voice during the Industrial Revolution, took Britain on a new path of politics.

1170English Barons seized land in Ireland.
1215King John signs the Magna CartaMajor events.
1216The barons no longer have faith in the charter and intend to depose King John.
1236Earliest use of the term Parliament, referring to the Great Council
1258At a Parliament at Oxford, the nobles drafted the "Provisions of Oxford" which calls for regular Parliaments with representatives from the counties
1265Simon de Montfort, in rebellion against Henry III, summoned a Parliament which included for the first time representatives of both the counties and towns
1275First Statute of Westminster
1278Statute of Gloucester
1290Expulsion of the Jews
1295Model Parliament was made up of nobles and bishops, and two representatives for each county and for each town - the model for future Parliaments.
1327From this date representatives of the counties (knights of the shire) and of the towns (burgesses) were always summoned together to Parliament
1332Knights of the shire and burgesses met together and were called the Commons.
1341The Commons met separately from the Upper House for the first time
1350During the 1300's virtually all land in Ireland under English control.
1376In the Good Parliament the Commons, led for the first time by an elected Speaker, prosecuted, or impeached, before the lords some of the king's advisors
1407The Commons successfully asserted its right that it should originate all new taxes in its own House
1414Henry V acknowledged that the approval and consultation of both Houses was necessary to make new laws
1490By the end of the fifteenth century English control was confined to a small area around Dublin. This area was known as the Pale. Those beyond the Pale were considered barbarians.
1523peaker of the Commons Sir Thomas More made the first known request for freedom of speech in Parliament
1529 - 36The Reformation Parliament passed legislation which would impact every one of the population, touching on every aspect of their lives and made King in Parliament the sovereign law-maker in the realm.
1541Henry VIII forced Ireland’s government to declare him King of Ireland. Once declared King, Henry began to introduce new laws that increased English control of Ireland.
1547The Commons Journal was established. The Clerk of the Commons started keeping records of proceedings.
1590Earl of Kildare led a series of revolts in Ulster protesting against English rule in Ireland.
1605Gunpowder Plot
1625 Parliament granted the new king customs duties for one year only, instead of for life
1628Charles I assented to the Commons' Petition of Right
1641Ulster Rebellion. The Irish in Ulster rebelled against English rule. The violence of the rebellion saw the deaths of many. In England it was alleged that the Catholics had massacred Protestants and many people wanted revenge.
1649Massacre of Drogheda. Oliver Cromwell took an army to Ireland determined to put an end to Irish revolts against English rule. He massacred a large number of Catholics at Drogheda as ‘revenge’ for the alleged massacre of Protestants in 1641.
1688The Glorious Revolution. The British invited William of Orange to come take the throne of England and Scotland.
1690Battle of the Boyne. William’s army defeated James II at this battle fought on the river Boyne in the North East of Ireland. Many Ulster Protestants fought with William and they became known as Orangemen.
1695 - 1728Penal Laws. These were a series of laws passed against Catholics in Ireland.
1713The Treaty of Utrecht
1801This act abolished the Irish parliament and formally united Ireland and Great Britain to become the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland
1832The Representation of the People Act.
1832Mary Smith, from Yorkshire, petitions Henry Hunt MP that she and other spinsters should ‘have a voice in the election of Members of Parliament.
1834Tolpuddle Martyrs. Farm workers in west Dorset formed a trade union. Unions were lawful and growing fast but six leaders of the union were arrested and sentenced to seven years’ transportation for taking an oath of secrecy. A massive protest swept across the country. Thousands of people marched through London and many more organised petitions and protest meetings to demand their freedom.
1866John Stuart Mill MP presents the first mass women’s suffrage petition to the House of Commons.
1867Manchester National Society for Women's Suffrage (MNSWS) is formed, alongside many other societies in different cities across Britain.
1870The Married Women's Property Act.
1885The Redistribution Act saw boundaries redrawn to produce equal electoral districts.
1886First Home Rule Bill for Ireland, sets out amongst other things a separate parliament and government should be set up in Dublin.
1893Second Home Rule Bill for Ireland.
1894The Local Government Act is passed, which allows married and single women to vote in elections for county and borough councils.
1897The National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies (NUWSS) is formed, uniting 17 societies.
1900 JanBattles of Ladysmith and Spion KopBoer War
Foreign Policy
1900Prince of Wales Attempted Assassination by Anarchist in Brussels 1900

Edward VII Prince of Wales
1900 May 17thRelief of Mafeking Relieved 1900
On the 216th day of the siege the British forces defending Mafeking under the leadership of Colonel Baden Powell, founder of the Scouts Movement were relieved by Colonel mason and his advanced guard. A special medal was struck and Baden Powell became a national hero.
South Africa
Boer War
20th Century
Baden Powell
1900Boxer Rebellion in China Contained and Put Down 1900/strong>
Admiral Sir Edward Seymour was in charge of China Station during the rebellion. The rebellion was suppressed by the Chinese government led by Li Hung Chang, a fervent nationalist, who was said to empathise with the rebels he was responsible for containing.
Boxer Rebellion China
1900King Humbert of Italy Assassinated by Anarchist The late King had been favourably disposed to Great Britain and desired to reinforce the Triple Alliance of Austria, Italy and Germany with an Anglo-Italian Entente. He took a firm lead on containing the power of the Vatican and was succeeded by his son King Victor Emmanuel III.
Foreign Policy
1900Labour Party founded
1901 Jan 1stAustralian Commonwealth inaugurated in Sydney 1901
Lord Hopetoun was sworn in as Governor-General.
20th Century
1901 Feb 2ndState Funeral of Queen Victoria 1901

20th Century
Queen Victoria
1901 Jul 18Earl Russell convicted of Bigamy in House of Lords 1901

House of Lords
20th Century
1901 Sept 18King Alfred the Great's Millenary celebrated at Winchester Cathedral Hampshire
Church and Religion
House of Wessex
Anglo Saxon
1901 Nov 09Australian Commonwealth inaugurated in Sydney 1901
Lord Hopetoun was sworn in as Governor-General.
1901King confers title Prince of Wales and Duke of Chester on his eldest surviving son
His eldest son known as Prince Eddy had died suddenly after a short illness in 1892
1902Anglo-Japanese treaty Signed
Foreign Policy
1902 May 31Peace Signed in South Africa 1902
The 2nd Boer War was over,
Boer War
War and Conflict
1902 JulSalisbury Resigned and Arthur J Balfour becomes Prime Minister 1902

Prime Ministers
1902 OctLord Kitchener made Commander-in-Chief India 1902

Colonies and Commonwealth
Government and Military Rule
1902 NovColonial Minister Joseph Chamberlain embarks on South African Tour

Foreign Policy
1902 DecBritish and German Fleets Seize and Blockade VenezuelaGovernment
Foreign Policy
South America
1902 DecNational Fund started in response to profound poverty and distress in London and other cities across BritainSocial Policy
Social Change and Welfare
1903 Jul 21Tariff Reform league InauguratedGovernment
Trade and Industry
Economy Protectionism Taxation
1903 AugRoyal Commission Report reveals Mismanagement of the Boer WarGovernment
Royal Commission
War and Conflict
Military Policy
1903 AugLord Salisbury died three times Prime Minister and four times Secretary of State for Foreign AffairsGovernment
Prime Ministers
1903 SepNeville Chamberlain Prime MinisterJoseph Chamberlain resigns as Colonial Secretary over tariff Reform</strong>Government
Trade and Industry
Foreign Policy
1903 The Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) is formed in Manchester at the home of Emmeline Pankhurst.
1905The political party Sinn Fein formed.
1907 Qualification of Women Act is passed, allowing women to be elected onto borough and county councils and as mayor.
1909People's Budget of Lloyd George sparked a Constitutional CrisisGovernment
1911Parliamentary Act 1911Government Law
1918The Representation of the People Bill is passed, allowing women over the age of 30 and men over the age of 21 to vote.
1919Nancy Astor takes her seat in the Houses of Commons, as the first female MP for Britain

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