Modern World History Course 2.4 English Democratic Traditions

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Transcript

00:25

George of the village. Acreage equaled attitude in those days. Vassals were

00:30

lower in the social hierarchy. They depended on their lord to give them land, [Man working hard for a lord]

00:34

which they then farmed. Vassals returned a portion of what they earn from their

00:39

efforts back to the lord. So lords were the original Hollywood agents... gotta

00:44

love that ten percent. And to top it all off, when things got real, the vassals had

00:48

to serve in the lord's militia. We guess there were some perks. The vassals [Man dressed in armor holding a sword]

00:53

got protection from their lord, as well as certain guaranteed rights and lessons

00:56

in conflict resolution. Well, this system worked pretty well for a long time.

01:00

Nobody had too much of anything, and the lords and vassals had a touching [Lord and Vassal at a table eating and drinking wine]

01:04

relationship that benefited all. I love you, you love me... you know the drill.

01:08

Eventually, however, things got complicated. Don't they always? Well,

01:13

groups of lords banded together and picked one queen bee to rule them all.[Lords together deciding one ruler]

01:16

The queen bee became the king bee, and wouldn't you know it, all the plebs in

01:20

Europe were happy to keep pledging their loyalty to the lord of the lords, so long as

01:25

he kept them safe. Lesser lords were also cool with this situation, so long as the [King stood at the top of a castle tower]

01:30

king didn't make them mad. Looks like we figured out where Tina Fey got the

01:34

inspiration for Mean Girls. But, as we all know, it only takes one bad apple to

01:39

screw things up for everybody else... a bad seed, a bad egg--basically someone yucky. [A lord eating a bad apple]

01:44

Enter King John, the big yuck-o who ruled England for about 15 years at the

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beginning of the 13th century. Well, King John's political smarts were less than [King John with a priest]

01:53

stellar. First, he got into it with the Catholic Church, and then he raised taxes

01:58

after losing a battle in France. Nobody likes a loser, and that included the

02:02

nobility of England, who decided it was time to limit the King's power with a [A giant boulder almost hits King John]

02:06

little document we like to call the Magna Carta. It looked like this... just

02:11

kidding, it was one of these boring guys. Can't blame us for trying

02:14

to liven up history though, right? We here in the US of A abide by a system called [The congress building]

02:18

civil law. We have a constitution--actually, a lot of constitutions--from

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which all things legal flow. Well, British common law, which got its start with the

02:26

Magna Carta, is different. Instead of basing everything on written laws only, [Pen scribbles out the word only]

02:31

the Brits also rely on something called precedent. No, not president. They've got a

02:36

prime minister, but that's not the point. Precedent means that a judge decided [A judge using a gavel]

02:40

something like a million years ago, and yeah, it seemed to work then, so that same

02:45

decision gets applied to the same situation over and over and over and

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over again today. Because if history doesn't repeat itself enough on its own,

02:51

well, we may as well help it along. Well, as the centuries passed, the group of lords [Man in court with a judge]

02:55

determined to keep a check on the king stayed a group of lords determined to

02:59

keep a check on the king, only they changed their name to "Parliament." During

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the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, Parliament operated independently of the

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king and took on more and more of the work of governing England. Well,

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Parliament also incorporated representatives from different social

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classes in different areas of the country into itself. It did pretty well

03:19

despite having such a silly name. You couldn't have just gone with something

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simple like, we don't know, Trevor? So checks on the executive, government that [Person scribbles out Parliament and writes Trevor]

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benefits and is representative of everyone, a hatred of taxes? You know, the

03:31

English government of the Middle Ages had it all, and today so does our

03:34

democracy. But you know what? We've got the Statue of Liberty and all Britain

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has is a really fat dude named Ben. That's not right, is it? [A man called Ben stood by the Big Ben Clocktower]