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The word (major = ‘greater’) was used in the post‐Roman West for officials with supervisory responsibilities, and was taken up by the elected heads of revolutionary town governments in northern France. In imitation of them, the Londoners elected a mayor when they formed a sworn association about 1190, and King John recognized the London mayoralty in 1215. In the later Middle Ages most leading English towns followed London's example. Municipal reform since 1835 has allowed the multiplication of towns with mayors and lords mayor but has diminished their real power: they have become simply chairmen or chairwomen of their councils, and are expected to devote much time to ornamental and ceremonial functions. But under the Local Government Act of 2000, some boroughs have opted to have elected mayors, armed with executive powers.

Subjects: British History.

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