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British Parliament

Britain's Parliament Building

In contrast to revolutions in the United States, France, and Latin America that lasted only a few years,revolution against the monarchy in England was a long, slow process that took centuries. It began in 1215 when the “Great Council” of English nobles forced King John to sign the Magna Carta, a document that established the principle that the king was not above the law. The Magna Carta was an early step toward the kind of constitutional government later established in the United States, France, and other democracies.

United States = a country in North America that also includes Alaska and the Hawaiian Islands.

Magna Carta = one of the most important documents in the history of democracy. In 1215, King John of England was forced to sign the Magna Carta stating that the king was not above the law of the land and protecting the rights of the people.

Over time, the Great Council evolved into a law-making body called Parliament. When an English king interfered with religious practices in the mid-1600s, Parliament raised an army that defeated and executed the king. In the late 1600s, Parliament removed another king from power and replaced him with a king and queen who agreed to follow a “Bill of Rights” strongly influenced by the Enlightenment views of John Locke.

Parliament = a legislative (law-making) body, similar to the U.S. Congress. England's parliament is very famous. The word comes in part from the French verb parler, which means to speak, which makes sense since this group of people assemble to talk about laws and issues.

Although the British monarch continued to serve as head of state, Parliament has been the true power in Great Britain since the 1700s. England was not yet a democracy, however, because the nobility controlled Parliament, and few people had the right to vote.

Great Britain = An island off the western coast of Europe comprising England, Scotland, and Wales, and constituting the largest part of the United Kingdom. It is separated from mainland Europe by the English Channel.