PinkMonkey Online Study Guide-World History
9.1 Origin of Democracy in England
The ’Witan’ (Great Council)
In the 9th century, England was ruled by Anglo-Saxon tribes. They ruled in consultation with the people. King Alfred formed a Consultative Council, known as the ’Witan’ (the Council of the wise men), which was composed of several learned men. This Council played a definite role in the administration of the country. It laid the seeds of democracy in England. The Anglo-Saxon kings made laws, gave grants of land, administered justice and decided matters such as war and peace, with the counsel and the consent of the ’Witan’.
During the period of the Normans, the ’Witan’ was known as the ’Great Council.’ A ’Town-moot’ looked after the administration of the village, a ’Hundred-moot’ was in charge of administering about a hundred villages. The ’county-moot’ was a bigger council than the ’Hundred-moot.’
Between 829 and 1066 AD, there was a tendency towards feudalism
in England, until it had been conquered by the Normans.
Monarchical Form of Government in England
The Normans (1066-1154) conquered England in the eleventh century. They established a monarchical form of government. They wiped out feudal elements by setting up a strong central government. However, an important role continued to be played by the ’Witan’ (now known as the ’Great Council’) in the administration of the country. Its consent was declared in every legislation and sometimes, with regard to taxation. At times, it functioned as the Supreme Court of Justice for civil as well as criminal cases.