English Bill of Rights (via  UK National Archives )

English Bill of Rights (via UK National Archives)

The English Bill of Rights was signed into law in 1689 by William III and Mary II of England. Many historians view the bill as a major stepping stone to modern human rights texts. The bill limits the power of the monarchy and outlines several constitutional and civil rights, including freedom of speech in Parliament and the right to bear arms for self-defense. Its authors were likely inspired by philosopher John Locke, who believed that the role of the government is to protect the ‘natural rights’ of its citizens.

By creating a constitutional monarchy, the document strengthened the rights of the individual and greatly weakened the power of the king and queen, leading to the largely ceremonial role of today’s British Royal Family.