History KS4 / GCSE: The birth of parliament

An overview of the conflict between King Henry III and his barons that led to the establishment of the first English Parliament.

Professor Robert Bartlett analyses how Henry III’s growing territorial ambitions in Europe were placed above the interests of his nation.

Using re-enactments and presentations from key places such as Kenilworth Castle and the Palace of Westminster, Professor Bartlett explains the short and long term consequences of the barons’ demand for a voice in governing England. He details the Provisions of Oxford, which established the first parliament and challenged the divine right of the Plantaganet kings.

Henry’s attempt to overturn these and the subsequent coup of Simon De Montfort, who then ruled the country through parliament, underlines the importance of this early council.

The concept of an early forerunner to the elected House of Commons is explained. The survival of Parliament despite De Montfort’s defeat and downfall is highlighted.

This clip is taken from the original BBC Two series, The Plantagenets.

Teacher Notes

Pupils could draw diagrams to illustrate the relationship of the monarch to his nobles prior to the establishment of parliament.

They can then contrast this with another diagram to illustrate the changed relationship as a consequence of parliament.

Pupils could draft and perform a 'hot seat' activity where one pupil plays the role of Henry whilst another is De Montfort.

The remaining class members then ask questions of each character to establish the conflicting points of view in the debate leading to the creation of the first parliament.

Curriculum Notes

This clip will be relevant for teaching history at KS4 / GCSE in England, Wales and Northern Ireland and National 4, National 5 and Higher in Scotland.

More from The Plantagenets

The rise of the Plantagenets
Magna Carta
Edward I, the Welsh and the Scots
The Peasants' Revolt
The fall of the Plantagenets