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House of Commons

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The Irish House of Commons, the first purpose-built House of Commons chamber in the world. Painted c. 1780.

The House of Commons is the name for the elected lower house of the bicameral parliaments of the United Kingdom and Canada. In both of these countries, the Commons holds much more legislative power than the nominally upper house of parliament. The leader of the majority party in the House of Commons by convention becomes the prime minister. Other parliaments have also had a lower house called the "House of Commons".

History and naming[edit]

The British House of Commons chamber in London

The House of Commons of the Kingdom of England evolved from an undivided parliament to serve as the voice of the tax-paying subjects of the counties and the boroughs. Knights of the shire, elected from each county, were usually landowners, while the borough members were often from the merchant classes. These members represented subjects of the Crown who were not Lords Temporal or Spiritual, who themselves sat in the House of Lords. The House of Commons gained its name because it represented communities (communes).[1]

From the Middle Ages until the early 20th century the suffrage was limited in various ways, typically to some male property-owners; in 1780 just 3% of the population could vote.[2] Since the 19th century, the British and Canadian Houses of Commons have become increasingly representative (see Reform Acts), as suffrage has been extended. Both bodies are now elected via universal adult suffrage.[3][4][5]

Specific bodies[edit]

The Canadian House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa

British Isles[edit]





United States[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ A. F. Pollard, The Evolution of Parliament (Longmans, 1920), 107–08.
  2. ^ "The Struggle for Democracy: Getting the vote – Voting rights before 1832". UK National Archives. Retrieved 8 May 2019.
  3. ^ Johnston, Neil (2013), The History of the Parliamentary Franchise, House of Commons Library, retrieved 16 March 2016
  4. ^ Briggs, Asa The Age of Improvement 1783-1867 (1959)
  5. ^ Woodward, Llewellan. The Age of Reform, 1815–1870 (2nd ed. 1961)