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‘Norman Yoke’

‘Norman Yoke’. The belief that Anglo-Saxon institutions had been essentially democratic until replaced by autocracy under the Normans, despite its implausibility, was held by many radicals in the 17th and 18th cents. One of its most powerful advocates was Edward Coke, who assured Queen Elizabeth that the Anglo-Saxons had had a parliament composed of two chambers, with boroughs and shires represented. The advantage of the theory to the opponents of Charles I was that they could shake off the charge that they were dangerous innovators and insist that they merely desired the restoration of ancient rights. The theory was so useful that it had a long run for its money. Major John Cartwright, the indefatigable exponent of parliamentary reform, was urging it in 1818, it was resuscitated by some of the chartists, and last heard when the House of Lords' resistance to Lloyd George's ‘People's Budget’ in 1909 was denounced as ‘Normanism’.

J. A. Cannon

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