These early juries determined which cases should be brought to trial and were the ancestors of today's grand jury. Later, another jury developed that was composed of 12 neighbors of an accused person. It was the ancestor of today's trial jury.

A Tragic Conflict with the Church

Henry's efforts to extend royal power over the clergy led to a bitter dispute with the Church. Henry claimed the right to try clergy in royal courts. Thomas Becket, the archbishop of Canterbury and once a close friend of Henry, fiercely opposed the king on this issue.

The conflict simmered for years. At last, Henry's fury exploded. “What cowards I have brought up in my court,” he cried. “Who will rid me of this meddlesome priest?” Four hot-headed knights took Henry at his word. In 1170, they murdered Archbishop Thomas Becket in his own cathedral. Henry denied any part in the attack. Still, to make peace with the Church, he eased his attempts to regulate the clergy. Meanwhile, Becket was honored as a martyr and declared a saint. Pilgrims flocked to his tomb at Canterbury, where miracles were said to occur.

Illustration of men seated and listening, with more men seated before them taking notes. Standing are men waiting and other men speaking to those seated. Guards are present.

This image shows prisoners brought before judges and a jury. The men sitting at the table writing on scrolls are recording the court activities, much like today's court reporters.

Developing New Traditions of Government

Later English rulers repeatedly clashed with nobles and the Church as they tried to raise taxes or to impose royal authority over traditional feudal rights. Out of those struggles evolved traditions of government that would have great influence on the modern world.

King John Battles Powerful Enemies

A son of Henry II, King John was a clever, cruel, and untrustworthy ruler. During his reign, he faced three powerful enemies: King Philip II of France, Pope Innocent III, and his own English nobles. He lost each struggle.

Ever since William the Conqueror, Norman rulers of England had held vast lands in France. In 1205, John suffered his first setback when he lost a war with Philip II and had to give up lands in Anjou and Normandy.

Next, John battled with Innocent III over selecting a new archbishop of Canterbury. When John rejected the pope's nominee, the pope excommunicated him, or prevented him from participating in the sacraments and services of the Church.

Illustration of a Christian man seated on a throne and surrounded by attendants, with a kneeling man setting a crown at his feet.

In this illustration from the 1800s, King John lays a token of his submission before the feet of Pope Innocent III's representative, conceding defeat.


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Table of Contents

World History Topic 1 Origins of Civilization (Prehistory–300 B.C.) Topic 2 The Ancient Middle East and Egypt (3200 B.C.–500 B.C.) Topic 3 Ancient India and China (2600 B.C.–A.D. 550) Topic 4 The Americas (Prehistory–A.D. 1570) Topic 5 Ancient Greece (1750 B.C.–133 B.C.) Topic 6 Ancient Rome and the Origins of Christianity (509 B.C.-A.D. 476) Topic 7 Medieval Christian Europe (330–1450) Topic 8 The Muslim World and Africa (730 B.C.-A.D. 1500) Topic 9 Civilizations of Asia (500–1650) Topic 10 The Renaissance and Reformation (1300–1650) Topic 11 New Global Connections (1415–1796) Topic 12 Absolutism and Revolution Topic 13 The Industrial Revolution Topic 14 Nationalism and the Spread of Democracy (1790–1914) Topic 15 The Age of Imperialism (1800–1914) Topic 16 World War I and the Russian Revolution (1914–1924) Topic 17 The World Between the Wars (1910–1939) Topic 18 World War II (1930–1945) Topic 19 The Cold War Era (1945–1991) Topic 20 New Nations Emerge (1945–Present) Topic 21 The World Today (1980-Present) United States Constitution Primary Sources 21st Century Skills Atlas Glossary Index Acknowledgments