What Is the English Bill Of Rights? - Definition, Summary & History

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  • 0:01 Background
  • 0:20 Effects of the Bill
  • 1:25 Provisions of the Bill
  • 3:18 Modern Day Uses
  • 3:36 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Jennifer Williams

Jennifer has taught various courses in U.S. Government, Criminal Law, Business, Public Administration and Ethics and has an MPA and a JD.

Expert Contributor
Grace Pisano

Grace has a bachelor's degree in history and a master's degree in teaching. She previously taught high school in several states around the country.

In this lesson, we will learn about the English Bill of Rights. We will take a closer look at why the document was created, what the document represents and the influence it has had on the U.S. Constitution.


The English Bill of Rights is an act that the Parliament of England passed on December 16, 1689. The Bill creates separation of powers, limits the powers of the king and queen, enhances the democratic election and bolsters freedom of speech.

Effects of the Bill

In England, during the Glorious Revolution of 1688, King James II abdicated and fled the country. He was succeeded by his daughter Mary and her Dutch husband, William of Orange. Before William and Mary could be proclaimed king and queen they had to agree to accept the Bill of Rights, which they did in February 1689.

The English Bill of Rights, which was an act of Parliament, guaranteed certain rights of the citizens of England from the power of the crown. The Bill of Rights was later added on by the Act of Settlement in 1701. Both of these contributed to the establishment of parliamentary sovereignty, which gives the legislative body of Parliament absolute sovereignty and makes it supreme over all other government institutions. The Bill of Rights also shrunk many of the powers of the crown. In fact, the United States Bill of Rights was modeled after the English Bill of Rights.

Provisions of the Bill

The first provision of the Bill states that the crown should have no interference with the law. The king and/or queen may not by themselves establish new courts of law nor may they act as a judge. The second provision of the Bill states that the crown may not create new taxes without approval of Parliament. An act must be passed in Parliament in order for new taxes to be created.

The third provision of the Bill states that Parliament may petition the crown to do something without fear of the crown retaliating against them. The fourth provision states that no army may be kept during peace time without consent of Parliament.

The fifth provision gives the people the right to bear arms so long as they are allowed to by law. This provision was important at the time of the creation of the Bill because at that point Protestants were not allowed to bear arms, only Catholics were. This provision abolished that law and reinstated the rights to Protestants as well as Catholics.

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Additional Activities

Understanding the English Bill of Rights

After reviewing the English Bill of Rights lesson, use this extension activity to help students understand the need for and purpose of its provisions.

For this activity, each student will pick one of the nine major provisions from the English Bill of Rights to research and explain. Students will begin by picking one of the provisions. This is an independent activity and although it would be great to have students pick a variety of provisions, it does not matter if there is overlap. They should pick whichever provision they are most interested in or curious about.

For their provision, students will do research about the exact wording in the English Bill of Rights (this may exist in your textbook or you might want to print copies off before doing the activity).

On a piece of copy paper students will write the name of their provision (i.e. First Provision: The crown cannot interfere with the law). Then, they will write a brief explanation of what that means and why this provision was added (this portion will call them to think about historic events). The rest of their paper should be filled with an illustration that is related to the provision. The illustration should be colored and take up most of the free space on the paper.

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