Custom Search

Evans Political history, 17century to reforms

Monarchy and parliament go back to medieval times.

End C17 governed by King

1.      subject to gods law

2.      law of the land

Functions of parliament

1.      declare law of the land

2.      provide money to pay govn costs

3.      serve king

C16-17 King got money from own sources, few taxes. Only in crises went to govn for money. Eg Queen Elizabeth called 13x in 45 years the parliament, was strict and sent MPs to the tower.

1625 Charles to throne. Govn refused to give him money. 1629-40 no parliament.

late 17c Charles II also called out parliament, but King Philip did without.


1688 William of Orange takes throne in Glorious Revolution. After that

18th century

1.      Responsibility to govern was kings, but needed parliament approval

2.      needed support from govn for money

Men went to parliamen ot make a figure of themselves.

1.      members of gentry

2.      people wanting ot boost creers

3.      merchants wanting to attract govn deals

4.      lawers wanting to be judges

5.      to secure themselves and get power

They got to parliament by

1.      Knights of counties

2.      nominations - enchanged Kings links with the House of Commons

3.      bribery

Gradualy through c18 kings ability to choose ministers declined and House of commons strength increased so that no govn defeated on c18. Gvn started to make laws. King still had patronage.

1760 George III went mad and tried to

1       reassert the role of KIng as the active head of govn

2       ruleor of country

But had problems with ministers, until 1770-82. 1782 King had to take wigs back to power.

Local people did not believe mandates would be better than the King

House of Lord

1       diasarm the army

2       make punsihents at university

3       pardon all offenders

Monarch still

1       appoints MP

2       can veto laws (not done since 1707)

3       used ot appoint ministers but can do now only if no majority exists

Dissolvation of Govn

1       when House of Commons decides on a general election (at least every 5 years)

2       Monarch could refuse a PM choice, never happens.

3       it is expected for a govn to resign and call a general election if it is defeated in a vote of confidence

In c18 boone thought that labouring masses should have any political power as it destroy the delicate balance of  the constitution. Every legimate interest was already represented in the parliament, "virtually", because of the different backrounds. Pressures were building up for a constitutional change.

Liberal Constitution

1       "Virtual" was not enough.

2       every man should enjoy representation

1832 Great reform act by wigs - cautious and reserved

1       Lord Grey wigs govn into office - tories divided

2       great popul increase. Higher number of people should decide who governs.

Robet Peel (tories) objected act

1       act might make house of commons dominate

2       when more voting also wider voting happens. More franchise?

Both became true.


1.      Break down ofaristrocracy

2.      MPs more likely to be voted - mandates dominat

3.      Not enough royal patronage

The aristocraty realised that constitutional change could lead to a disaster and revolution. They thought about giving middle class some power, so they could keep working class out.

1       Old policies of patrongae remained, but lords were forced to give way

2       power of king decreased. PM could choose cabinet

3       House of Com became more legimate

a.      they were the centre

b.      new independence

c.      representative assembly of individual members chosen by indinvidual electors

After 1832

1       MPs less likely to keep their mandate -  more concentration on views, House of commons became more responsible to the electorate. Tehnically crown still appointed MPs.

2       many important changes that lead to the modern system (not secret ballot)

Walter Bagehot gave an account 1867

1.      Dignified part

seen to be powerful, but merely impressed the many and secured public support for the system - King and House of Lords

2.      Efficient part

Not seenas powerfull, but actually had the real power and governed the country - House of commons, Cabinet, PM


Several things happened:

1.      Pariament was countable to house of commons.

2.      King didnt have enough supporters to win majority in the HOC.

3.      There was a growing link between electorates and MPs

4.      Secret balloting was still not allowed (bribingoccured).

Move to a system that is more democratic.

HOC made HO lords and the Crown less important in mid 19th century.

Deepening of Institutions:

Most was not done by writen constitution but by convention and tradition.

The powers of the crown were very extensive (she could sell dhips, declare war, appointment of judges). Since 1882 very few of them are done by the monarh herself, most are done by ministers, who act in the name of crown. The power has been taken over by the government.

The monarch appoints prime minister and dissmiss parliament. Monarch can still veto a legislation, but it doesn't happen in practice.

1832 became Willam 4. He appointed the PM Robert Peal - a tory. He didn't command the majority of commons. There was no stability of 18century. He called an election. After them  Peel had even less  majority. The power to appoint ministers was clearly transfered to peopole, as the ministers didn't return when William asked.

The crown 1830 had to do what government wanted.

reform house of lords

1.      It was more revising and delaying house

2.      after 19th century still two houses

1.      agreement that both pass laws

2.      can votee down what passed by HOC

Liberals changed in 1911

Instead of voting down delaying for 2 years

HOL was not democratically elected, based on hereditary.

1949 Labour feared it would delay Irish Steel nationalisation - reducedd delaying to 1 year.

Only once used in 1994 for Nazi waar criminals

Last attempt was to make Lords always with majority to the govn side. It did not go through and now even labour does not want to change it.

1958 conservatices introduced life time peer - cannot pass on. Allowed women, and non-aristrocrats, allowed renouncing of peers.


1.      Judical (many judges)

2.      legislative - clarifying and delaying

3.      gvt can step them

4.      right of question the gvt

5.      quality debates

6.      specialised comitees - EC, science

7.      Greater deal of activism

8.      Constitution safeguard

9.      But socially and politically unrepresentative (only conservatives)


essential part of covernment legistature. A sovereign body.

MPs (651)

1.      MPs reperesent regions with ca. even population called constituencies.

2.      They keep surgent hours so people can come and complain.

3.      Nowadays too many people claim and MP can't do much about, still can bring issues to light.

4.      MP usually question ministers (get name to the papers). There have been attempts to limit supplementary questions Idea is that ministers answers are poor and supplementary questions are to reveal them. But the questions get like "what did a minister do today?". Many questions are to promote a party. Resently front benchers get priority.

Government has the priority in sittings, except for Friday- devoted to PM and motions.


Click here to see more economics,politics and school papers from me