About the History of Parliament's 'Parliaments' articles


This section of the website is currently in progress. In time, it is planned to provide articles on each Parliament from the thirteenth century to the present day.

Most of these articles are being specially written for the website, and are intended to provide a brief introduction to the events and legislation of each Parliament to complement the History's articles on constituencies and Members.

Each will contain information on the key political, parliamentary and legislative episodes that took place during the period of a particular Parliament. Until 1690 Parliament was a meeting of the chief nobility and representatives of each county and selected towns that occurred irregularly and for comparatively short periods. After 1690 Parliament has met every year, usually for several months at a time, so becoming a permanent institution.

From at least 1690 each Parliament met for the first time following a general election and was only usually dissolved after several years. From 1694 the maximum length of a Parliament was set at 3 years by the Triennial Act. In 1716 this was changed to 7 years by the Septennial Act. The present maximum of five years was introduced in 1911 under the Parliament Act.

Since the sixteenth century long-lasting Parliaments have been divided into separate periods of sitting called sessions. Since 1690 this has become a routine practice, with sessions usually a year long, although the occurrence of a general election may make them shorter or longer.