Faculty Advisor

Smith, Katherine

Area of Study

Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences

Publication Date

Summer 2016


The British Bill of Rights is arguably one of the most important documents in history; it symbolizes modernity, legal protection for popular sovereignty, and has inspired several political and intellectual revolutions. The Bill of Rights is a physical manifestation of the British constitution and represents a triumph of constitutionality over despotism, the struggle which has defined British history since the Norman Invasion in 1066, and which has been deemed the de facto constitution itself. Because of its unique composition, the British constitution has been a hotly debated historical subject since the Glorious Revolution. Most scholarship on this topic has been concerned with identifying the individuals who advanced the cause of popular sovereignty over tyranny. This scholarship has influenced political agendas (e.g. attempts to justify the overthrow of the Stuart monarchy, and later, to legitimize the Whig party over the Tory party), and has largely focused on the the fifteenth-century Wars of the Roses. This project interrogates this traditional model of history, and argues that the modern constitutional narrative, as well as the development and application of the constitution itself, is based on (often faulty) medieval memories. This claim is based on analysis of case studies on Kings Edward IV (r.1461-1470, 1471-1483) and Henry VII (r.1485-1509), the two kings most often celebrated for their apparent roles as constitutional catalysts, based on analysis of a variety of historical, governmental, and literary sources from the fifteenth century, as well as modern historical analysis.


University of Puget Sound