Parliament - Origins

Origins

The Spanish Parliament of the Kingdom of León (1188) was the first example in the history of Europe.

The use of the term 'parliament' first occurred in 1236 in England. Previously, this group of the king’s closest advisors had been called the “council”. After agreeing to the principle of “common consent” in the Magna Carta, King John had to increase the size of this group of advisors and include more commoners. He then had to submit his requests for increased taxation to this newly expanded group. Two distinct groups emerged among the commoners: the landed gentry, and the rich merchants and lawyers.

The word “parliament” comes from the French “parler”, which means “to talk” or “to discuss”. English parliamentary procedure, such as Jefferson’s Manual of Parliamentary Procedure, developed not to facilitate talk, but to facilitate decision-making. Although the British model of parliament, known as the Westminster Model, is held up as the “Mother of all Parliaments”, it is unique in that it developed over time from tradition, as opposed to being democratically enacted by way of a constitution.

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