Nov 11, 2019 in History

Development of Medieval England

Before the 1500s, many European states did not exist. Before the period, people did not live as a nation. People lived in small settlements and the rulers at that period did not have much control of their areas or subjects. People operated on different laws and regulations within a specific country. However, the period starting 1000 saw a dramatic change in the political, social, and economic structures of many European countries. An example of a country that experienced such a change was England. The following research paper expounds on the development of the medieval state of England. The research paper will concentrate on the various aspects that changed to form the state of England. An analysis will show that the development of Medieval England was a process that started when the Romans ceased their rule in England and new Kings took over.

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End of Roman Rule

The fifth century signaled the end of the Roman rule in England. After the Romans’ withdrawal, the Anglo-Saxons invaded England and came up with kingdoms. The kingdoms had rivalries against each other, but as time went by, a system of leadership sufficed in England. Various rulers came to power and by the 9th century, the most powerful king was Alfred the Great. He ruled between 871 and 899 and had the responsibility of protecting England from all invaders. During his rule, significant developments were made regarding the making of the England state. He initiated the development of a military system in which the new organization saw the development of militia ready to battle. The military system was supported by infrastructure such as ships for defense purposes. During King Alfred’s rule, the state was started having an aspect of organization. 

After Alfred’s rule, the successors were mainly focused on unifying England. The successors created a united England monarchy that made the initial small kingdoms united. As a result of the unification, the differences that existed between the small kingdoms diminished by factors such as intermarriages. Despite the progress, England still had weaknesses, especially in repelling external attacks. The period after 1016 saw the country ruled by external leaders. After 1016, the country was ruled by King Canute. The king ruled both Norway and Denmark. Despite the invasion, the new king was accepted by the subject mainly because his administration respected the rights of the English people. After Canute’s death, Edward the Confessor took up the power. However, his reign did not propel England to significant developments. After his death, the most notable ruler that had significant development in England was William the Conqueror mainly because of his defense strategies. Initially he ruled the western side of Germany. His strong army of 5,000 personnel led to him conquering England in 1066. His rule in England signaled the start of an organized government in England that made it a strong European force.

King William’s Rule

After William’s rule was affirmed, the new ruler introduced the concept of feudalism in England. He retained large tracks of land as the leader and shared it with royal vassals, who went by the name tenants in chief. The tenants included royal individuals such as bishops. The vassals rewarded the gift of land to the king by providing him with an army for England’s defense. The king was keen for the vassals and the subjects to remain loyal and faithful to the King. After the organization of an organized army, the King also developed a revenue system for the state. The system was referred to as the Domesday Survey, and it initially used to buy off the Danes in the English territory. William also initiated the proper recording of property owned in England to ensure that there was an efficient revenue collection system.

William also aimed at ensuring that he had the control of the government and he developed the Great Council, mainly composed of the tenants in chief. They acted as the advisory body for the king. Apart from dominating England, William also ruled over the church. He retained the power to appoint bishops and other church rulers. He required the churches in England to consult him while making vital decisions. In 1087, William II succeeded his father but his rule was not as effective as his father’s. In 1110, Henry I came to power, and he restored some leadership traits of King William. During Henry’s reign, specialized government departments came up, an example being the exchequer. The institution had the responsibility of collecting revenues, thus leading to the strengthening of the economy. 

Judicial System and Magna Carta

After Henry’s death, there was 19 years of civil war that followed due to succession disputes. The violence was mainly because many Matilda, Henry’s child, was prevented from claiming the throne. However, order resumed in England in 1154 when Henry II came to power. The new king was Matilda’s son. The new king was strong military wise and he regained the lost glory of Henry 1 and started rebuilding the country. The major achievements of Henry II was the establishment of permanent royal courts that in turn created the country’s judicial system. The jury system had the responsibility of interpreting the law and also settling private feuds. The judicial reforms by the Judiciary led to the creation of common law in England. The common law is attributed as a pillar to making the English people come together to form a nation. Other successors of King Henry were not keen in developing an organized government system with an exception being King John. John affixed his seal to the Magna Carta, which imposed new rules to the king. According to the document, the king had to observe all human rights. People view the Magna Carta as the source of the modern political Freedom in England.


The empowering of the parliament happened from 1265 with the membership of the Great Council significantly changing. The change entailed enlarging the constitution of the council to ensure that it represented the whole nation. The changes in the constitution of the council happened in the reign of Henry III who ruled between 1216 and 1272. However, the realization and the functionality of the parliament came in the period between 1272 and 1307 when Edward I was the ruler. The king summoned the representatives of all regions in England to meet in the Great Council. The meetings used to be advisory sessions for the government. In the early periods of the fourteenth century, the representatives of the knights and other citizens started having separate meetings different from those representing the lords and temporal. As a result, two houses arose, and the division of the houses exists even in the modern England. The houses included the lower house and that of the Lords. The lower house often controlled some of the king’s decisions because they controlled the government revenue. As a result, it influenced the laws made by the king. As time went by, the House of Commons wielded the power to make laws. The development of the houses manifests itself in the modern England, whose laws are made by the two houses, namely, the House of Lords and the House of Commons. 

In conclusion, the development of Medieval England was a process that started when the Romans ceased their rule in England and new Kings took over. The first Kings to initiate the development of the traditional England was King Alfred and Canute. However, the ruler that made significant steps to an organized England was King William. The king initiated new structures of military and advisory body for the kingship by the name the Great Council. Despite the developments, the successors of King William had mixed results, with some of them such as not keen on developing organized structures for England. One of the lost significant developments was the Magna Carta, a document that allowed freedoms for the English citizens. Other kings developed advanced revenue systems and a more representative body that advised the king. As a result, by the 14th century, England had a functioning parliament that entailed the House of Commons and the House of Lords.

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