While rules of law have always been a concern for society, the use of legislatures for their establishment is a relatively modern phenomenon. In earlier times, human laws were considered part of the universal natural law, discoverable through the use of reason rather than made by the declaration of the people. With the growth of belief in positive law, the increasing need in emerging modern society for adaptable law, and the decline of monarchial power, however, legislatures with law-making powers came about. One of the oldest legislatures (with the possible exception of Iceland's Althing and the Isle of Man's Tynwald) is the English Parliament, which, although originally nonelective and advisory to the king, has evolved over the centuries to the point where its lower house is now elected through universal suffrage and possesses the sovereign power of the state.
Some other modern national legislatures are the U.S. Congress, the Cortes (Spain), the Knesset (Israel), the Dáil Éireann (Ireland), the Bundestag (Germany), the Folketing (Denmark), the Riksdag (Sweden), the Storting (Norway), and the Congress of People's Deputies (Russia). The term parliament is often applied to national legislatures without regard to the official designation.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.