Which country has the world’s shortest written constitution?

Which country has the world’s shortest written constitution?

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The planet’s second-smallest nation by area (after Vatican City), has the world’s shortest constitution. Adopted in 1962 during the reign of Prince Rainier III, the governing document of Monaco currently clocks in at 3,814 words, according to the Comparative Constitutions Project (CCP). The diminutive principality, which today is famous as a playground for the rich, was granted its first constitution in 1911 by Prince Albert I. Meanwhile, India’s 146,385-word constitution is the world’s longest, according to CCP. It went into effect in January 1950, less than three years after India gained its independence from Britain, in August 1947.

The 7,762-word U.S. Constitution is generally considered the world’s oldest written national constitution still in use. It was drafted during the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, which convened on May 25, 1787, and concluded with the document’s signing on September 17 of that year. (Of the 39 delegates who put their signatures on the document, 81-year-old Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania was the oldest while 26-year-old Jonathan Dayton of New Jersey was the youngest.) In June 1788, New Hampshire became the ninth and final of the 13 states needed to ratify the Constitution. The U.S. government started operating under the Constitution on March 4, 1789. More than a year later, in May 1790, Rhode Island became the last state to ratify it.

As of December 2014, more than 11,600 proposals to amend the Constitution had been introduced in Congress since 1789. To date, 33 constitutional amendments have been approved by Congress and sent to the states for ratification; six of these amendments failed. The 27th Amendment, which deals with congressional pay, was the most recent amendment to be ratified, in 1992.


A constitution is an aggregate of fundamental principles or established precedents that constitute the legal basis of a polity, organisation or other type of entity and commonly determine how that entity is to be governed. [1]

When these principles are written down into a single document or set of legal documents, those documents may be said to embody a written constitution if they are encompassed in a single comprehensive document, it is said to embody a codified constitution. Some constitutions (such as that of the United Kingdom) are uncodified, but written in numerous fundamental Acts of a legislature, court cases or treaties. [2]

Constitutions concern different levels of organizations, from sovereign countries to companies and unincorporated associations. A treaty which establishes an international organization is also its constitution, in that it would define how that organization is constituted. Within states, a constitution defines the principles upon which the state is based, the procedure in which laws are made and by whom. Some constitutions, especially codified constitutions, also act as limiters of state power, by establishing lines which a state's rulers cannot cross, such as fundamental rights.

The Constitution of India is the longest written constitution of any country in the world, [3] with 146,385 words [4] in its English-language version, [5] while the Constitution of Monaco is the shortest written constitution with 3,814 words. [6] [4] The Constitution of San Marino might have the world's oldest active written constitution, since some of its core documents have been in operation since 1600, while the Constitution of the United States has the oldest active codified constitution. The historical life expectancy of a constitution since 1789 is approximately 19 years. [7]

These guys haven't heard about Indian Constitution written by Dr. Bhimrao Ambedkar(Dr. B.R. Ambedkar) which is the best constitution among all.

Comment Added

Dr Ambedkar didn't write the Indian constitution, he was the head of the Drafting committee THE COMMITTEE WAS HEADED by Dr Rajendra Prasad Temporary Chairman-Sachchidananda Sinha and Vice President-H. C. Mookerjee and V. T. Krishnamachari. BUT I COMPLETLY AGREE WITH YOU INDIA'S CONSTITUTION IS WORTH METIONING IT IS THE BASIS OF THE LARGEST AND ONE OF THE MOST COMPLEX DEMOCRACY.

10 Oldest Countries in the World (Updated 2021)

Although human life began to form millions of years ago, the earliest signs of human civilizations appeared fairly recently in the human timeline. Some of the earliest civilizations developed around 6500 BCE, when people stopped living nomadic lives and began to settle in and develop one area. These early settlements soon gave rise to massive cities and the idea of separate countries and nations followed. Some of the earliest countries formed not long after civilization developed and all of the countries on this list were formed thousands of years ago.

10. San Marino

Year Founded: 301 CE
Founder(s): Saint Marinus
Capital City: City of San Marino
Current Population: 33,344 (2018 estimate)

photo source: Wikimedia Commons

While many other countries have longer histories, San Marino is often cited as the oldest city in the world as the country has been an uninterrupted sovereign state since 301 CE. The country was official founded on September 3, 301 CE when Saint Marinus built a church on Monte Titano. This little church grew into the city of San Marino, the capital of the small country.

San Marino is one of the smallest countries in the world and is part of the Italian Peninsula. The country is very prosperous and its economy mainly relies on finance, tourism, services, and industry. San Marino has one of the Europe’s lowest unemployment rates, no national debt, and a budget surplus.

Did You Know?

San Marino is not only the oldest uninterrupted sovereign state, it also has the world’s oldest constitution, dating back to October 8, 1600. However not all of its laws are codified, so the U.S. Constitution is often considered the oldest.

9. Iran – Founded c.550 BCE

Year Founded: c.550 BCE
Founder(s): Cyrus II
Capital City: Tehran
Current Population: 81,672,300 (2018 estimate)

photo source: Wikimedia Commons

Ancient Iran, which was known as Persia in the Western world until 1935, was founded around 550 BCE under the Achaemenid Empire. Prior to the rise of the Persian Empire, several groups of people lived in the area that would later become Iran – this included the Elamites, who were a pre-Iranian civilization that settled in the far West and Southwest region of modern-day Iran and the Medes, who had control of most of Iran until the Persians stepped in.

Cyrus II (commonly known as Cyrus the Great) established the Persian Empire around 550 BCE after he conquered the Median, Lydian, and Babylonian empires and gained control of Iran. The Achaemenid Empire ruled Iran until Alexander the Great conquered the Persian Empire in 330 BCE. Modern-day Iran was founded in 1979 after the Iranian Revolution ended the monarchy and an Islamic Republic was established.

Did You Know?

Iran has a rich history and currently has 22 UNESCO World Heritage sites, the third most in Asia and 11 th most in the world.

8. Japan

Year Founded: 660 BCE
Founder(s): Emperor Jimmu (legendary)
Capital City: Tokyo
Current Population: 126,440,000 (2018 census)

photo source: Wikimedia Commons

Japan often cites 660 BCE as the date of the country’s founding as this was when the first Emperor of Japan, Emperor Jimmu ascended the throne and began Japan’s imperial dynasty. Emperor Jimmu’s is considered a mythic legendary emperor of Japan and is believed to be a descendant of the sun goddess Amaterasu – he is recorded as Japan’s first emperor in two early chronicles, Kojiki, and Nihon Shoki. The earliest emperors of Japan, following Emperor Jimmu, are presumed to also be legendary as there is not sufficient evidence that they actually existed.

While historians can’t be sure whether or not these early emperors really existed, they do know that the people began arriving in Japan from Asian mainland around 13000 BCE and the earliest recorded history of Japan occurred during the Kofun period (c.250 AD – 538 AD). Although Emperor Jimmu’s story is most likely a myth, Japan celebrates its National Foundation Day on February 11 th as a tribute to Emperor Jimmu’s ascension in 660 BCE.

Did You Know?

One of the things Japan is known for is the longevity of its citizens the country has the highest life expectancy in the world and many people live over 100 years.

7. Greece – Founded c.800 BCE

Year Founded: c.800 BCE
Founder(s): Unspecified
Capital City: Athens
Current Population: 10,768,477 (2017 estimate)

photo source: Wikimedia Commons

The Archaic period of Greece is one of the country’s most prominent time periods as it laid the foundations for Greek’s Classical period, which is known for establishing the foundations of modern western civilization. This period in Greece’s history started sometime around 800 BCE after Greece began to emerge from the Dark Ages.

During the Archaic period, the Greeks made advances in art, poetry, and technology, but the most important thing to be invented during this time period was the polis, or city-state. The polis would go on to define Greek political life for hundreds of years. Also during this time period, the Greek alphabet was developed as well as the earliest institutions of democracy. Ancient Greece was followed by Roman Greece, Byzantine Greece, and Ottoman Greece, with the modern Greece period starting in 1821 after the Greek Revolution.

Did You Know?

Athens, the capital of Greece, has been the country’s most important city since the 1 st millennium BCE.

6. Ethiopia – Founded c.980 BCE

Year Founded: c.980 BCE
Founder(s): Unknown
Capital City: Addis Ababa
Current Population: 102,403,196 (2016 estimate)

photo source: Wikimedia Commons

Human life has been around in Ethiopia for millions of years as skeletal fragments belonging to Australopithecus afarensis, an apelike creature that may have been the ancestor of modern humans, that were found in the area are thought to be about 3.4 million – 2.9 million years old. As life flourished in Ethiopia, complex societies began to develop and one of the first kingdoms established was Dʿmt, which lasted from c.980 BCE – c.400 BCE.

The people of this kingdom developed irrigation schemes, used plows, grew millet, and made iron tools and weapons. After the fall of Dʿmt, the Aksumite Kingdom rose to power around 100 AD and ended sometime in 940 AD. This kingdom was followed by the Zagwe Dynasty, and the Solomonic Dynasty after that – Ethiopia would continue to be ruled by a monarchy until 1974.

Did You Know?

Ethiopia is one of the only countries in Africa to never be colonized by a European power, but it was occupied by the Italians from 1936 – 1941.

5. Georgia

Year Founded: c.15th century BCE
Founder(s): Colchians
Capital City: Tbilisi
Current Population: 3,729,600 (2016 estimate)

photo source: Wikimedia Commons

Georgia traces its history to the legendary Kingdom of Colchis and the Kingdom of Karlti/Iberia. Both kingdoms were important during the Bronze Age of Eurasia, around 1500 BCE. The Kingdom of Colchis was often mentioned in Greek mythology, particularly in the tale of the Golden Fleece and Jason and the Argonauts. While these stories may just be legends, powerful tribes did set up small states in Georgia as far back as the 12 th century BCE.

Following a brief Roman conquest around 66 BCE, Rome and the Iranian states fought over Georgia for more than 700 years. Georgia also fell to early Muslim conquests in the 7 th century CE. The country was subsequently ruled by the Persians and Russia. After a brief period of independence from the Russian Empire, Georgia became part of the Soviet Union. Georgian finally gained its true independence in 1991.

Did You Know?

Georgia became the second country to adopt Christianity around the early 4 th century CE and the Georgian Orthodox Church is one of the world’s oldest Christian churches.

4. China – Founded c.2070 BCE

Year Founded: c.2070 BCE
Founder(s): Yu the Great
Capital City: Beijing
Current Population: 1,403,500,365 (2016 estimate)

photo source: Wikimedia Commons

The first Chinese dynasty was the Xia Dynasty which lasted from c.2070 BCE – 1600 BCE. There are no first hand records from the Xia Dynasty as the written history of China dates back to the Shang Dynasty (c. 1600 BCE – 1046 BCE) – however, the Xia Dynasty is mentioned in historical chronicles such as the Bamboo Annals, the Classic of History, and the Records of the Grand Historian.

Until excavations in the 1960s and 1970s uncovered sites that provided strong evidence for the existence of the Xia Dynasty, many people believed that it was more myth than fact. China’s dynastic period lasted until 1912 when the Qing Dynasty ended and republic was formed. The People’s Republic of China was founded in 1949 and continues on as modern-day China.

Did You Know?

While the people of ancient China invented many things that we still use today, the Four Great Inventions – the compass, gunpowder, papermaking, and printing – are celebrated in Chinese culture for their historical significance and as symbols of ancient China’s advanced science and technology.

3. Afghanistan

Year Founded: c.3000 BCE
Founder(s): Unknown – possibly Indus Valley Civilization
Capital City: Kabul
Current Population: 31,575,018 (2018 estimate)

photo source: Wikimedia Commons

The Indus Valley Civilization is believed to have had a colony in Afghanistan as early as 3000 BCE. They established one of the world’s first cities, Mundigak, near modern-day Kandahar. Archaeologists have also found evidence of smaller Indus Valley Civilization colonies in other parts of Afghanistan.

Over time, waves of semi-nomadic people from Central Asia settled in Afghanistan and brought their culture with them. Afghanistan was conquered by Darius I of Persia and later Alexander the Great and other various empires. The country was even influenced by the British for awhile. In 1973, Afghanistan became a unitary presidential Islamic republic.

Did You Know?

While Afghanistan is an Islamic nation today, Buddhism flourished in the country during the 1 st century BCE to 3 rd century CE under the Kushan Empire.

2. India

Year Founded: c.3300 BCE
Founder(s): Indus Valley Civilization
Capital City: New Delhi
Current Population: 1,324,171,354 (2016 estimate)

photo source: Wikimedia Commons

People have been living in the region in the Indian subcontinent since around 3300 BCE, starting with the Indus Valley Civilization. Although these early peoples formed one of the world’s earliest urban civilizations, the beginnings of India as a nation started with the Vedic Period which lasted from c.1500 BCE – c. 600 BCE. This time period is named for the texts of Vedas, which were orally composed in Vedic Sanskrit and provided details of the Vedic culture.

The Vedic Civilization laid the foundation of Hinduism (the Vedic texts are still sacred to modern Hindus) as well as several cultural aspects of the Indian subcontinent that still exist today. The first kingdoms or Janapadas started to form c.1200 BCE and lasted until the end of the Vedic period. The end of the Vedic period led to the rise of Hinduism, Jainism, and Buddhism in India and the beginning of the powerful dynasties that would rule India for the next three milennia. Modern-day India was founded in 1947 after the country gained its independence from the British Empire.

Did You Know?

India is the seventh largest country by area and the second most populous country, after China, with population over 1.32 billion.

1. Egypt

Year Founded: c.6000 BCE
Founder(s): King Narmer (aka Menes)
Capital City: Cairo
Current Population: 94,798,827 (2017 census)

photo source: Wikimedia Commons

Although ancient Egyptian civilization can trace its roots back to around 6000 BCE, when various groups of hunter – gatherers settled in the Nile River Valley, Egypt’s first dynasty is dated c.3100 BCE. Around this time period, Upper and Lower Egypt were unified into a single kingdom by King Menes – Menes is actually the Egyptian word for founder and many historians believe that founder of Egypt was a ruler named Narmer. This makes Egypt the oldest country in the world.

King Narmer was able to establish control over the entire navigable length of the Nile and established the capital in Memphis, a city near modern-day Cairo. This first dynasty was the first of a series of dynasties that would go on to rule over Egypt for the next three millennia until it was conquered by Alexander the Great in 332 BCE. Modern Egypt was founded in 1953 after the Egyptian Revolution of 1952.

Did You Know?

While Egypt has a large population, the majority of its citizens live along the Nile River, where the only arable land is found (about 40,000 km² (15,000 sq mi)).

By Kim Lane Scheppele

The American Constitution was the first complete written national constitution. But it was neither the first constitution of a general government, nor the first written constitution. A number of governments, starting with the Greek city-states, had customary or partially written constitutions. And the American states had all complete written constitutions before the Philadelphia Constitutional Convention took place. In fact, at the Philadelphia convention, many of the delegates reacted against what they saw as the flaws in the state constitutions, which had exchanged the unlimited power of the (now overthrown) King for the unlimited power of a (now elected) legislature. The checks and balances system that emerged from the Philadelphia convention was, for many of the delegates, a reinstatement of what they believed the British constitution had long stood for, before kings began exceeding their legitimate power under it.

The American Constitution drew from many sources. Britain was the most obvious. But the comparative knowledge of the Framers ranged from Ancient Greece to then contemporary Poland. This educated group meeting in Philadelphia was well aware that their draft was highly original in some ways and deeply indebted to other constitutional ideas in other ways.

Once the American Constitution was ratified, the idea of the single written constitution became popular the world over. Poland adopted its first written constitution in the spring of 1791 France followed with its first written constitution later that year and went through four constitutions in the 1790s alone. Many 19th century changes of government were marked by the adoption of written constitutions, some of which are still in existence. The European Revolutions of 1848 produced dozens of new constitutions in that year alone, though few of them lasted. But it was clear by century's end in many parts of the world that changes of government should be marked by the adoption of new constitutions.

In the 20th century, constitutions have become fashionable, especially since the Second World War. Almost all democratic governments now have written constitutions. (The United Kingdom, New Zealand and Israel are the notable exceptions.) Judicial review of laws, an American invention, has also spread throughout the world, though the American style of judicial review is less popular than the Austrian/German style developed following the WWI in Austria and WWII in Germany. Since the collapse of the Soviet Empire, a wave of new constitution-writing has produced a new faith in the abilities of constitutions to guide new governments. The new constitutions tend to be much longer than the American one, because they govern more institutions (like central banks, administrative agencies, cabinet-level offices, and the military) and because they include more rights (not only a more extensive list of civil and political rights, but also increasingly social, cultural and economic rights as well).

The American Constitution remains special in this history, but its exact provisions, its elaborate system of checks and balances, its constrained list of rights, and its sparseness are not very often copied exactly these days. But the American constitutional experience showed how one might construct a long-lasting democratic government though clever ideas about the design of political institutions. And this model of political creation has captured constitution-writers ever since.

Kim Lane Scheppele is a professor of law, political science, and sociology at the University of Pennsylvania. Professor Scheppele was the 1999 – 2000 NCC Senior Visiting Scholar.

Key actors

The key actors in favor of the current constitutional review process include the governing Movement for Multi-Party Democracy (MMD), some members of Patriotic Front party (the main opposition party) and the Law Association of Zambia. The Catholic Church and some Protestant churches have boycotted the NCC as well as the leadership of the Patriotic Front. Additionally the Non-Governmental Organizations Coordinating Council has also boycotted the NCC out of concerns that the NCC is dominated by the government. Some organizations that have boycotted the NCC have been invited to make presentations.

Which country has the world’s shortest written constitution? - HISTORY

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The US Constitution: Introduction

The original US Constitution is housed in the National Archives in Washington, D.C.
The Constitution of the United States is a document that outlines the basis of the federal (national) government of the USA. It was written in 1787 at the "Constitutional Convention," held in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in what we now call Independence Hall. The 55 men at the convention are called the "Founding Fathers" of the USA, and are also known as the "Framers of the Constitution." Some of the more famous of the framers are George Washington (the first President of the USA), James Madison (the fourth President of the USA), Benjamin Franklin, and Alexander Hamilton.

The US Constitution was ratified (approved) by nine states on June 21, 1788 (Delaware was the first state to ratify it) it was later ratified by the remaining states. It replaced the earlier set of government rules, the Articles of Confederation , which were the law of the land from 1781 until 1788 (this document created a group of semi-independent states plus a weak national Congress, with neither an Executive nor a Judicial branch).

The Constitution sets up the United States with a federal (national) government plus state governments. It also specifies that the USA will be a republic, with an elected President, a bicameral congress (consisting of two legislative branches, a House of Representatives and a Senate), and a system of courts headed by a Supreme Court.

The Constitution is composed of a Preamble (an introduction), the main body (which consists of seven articles), and amendments (additions to the Constitution made after the Constitution was created).

The Preamble of the US Constitution:
The Preamble to the Constitution is the short, one-sentence introduction to the Constitution it explains that the document proposes to establish a more perfect government complete with justice, tranquility, and liberty. It states, " We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."

  • the Legislative Branch (which makes the national laws and consists of Congress -- the House of Representatives and the Senate),
  • the Executive Branch (headed by the President),
  • the Judicial Branch (which administers justice by interpreting the Constitution and laws, and consists of judges in a system of courts).

This division of the government into branches is an example of separation of power , the idea that the enormous power of a government should be split into independent groups, so that any one group cannot have too much power. In this system, the separate groups check (monitor) the behavior of each other, having the effect of keeping an even balance of power this is called checks and balances . The phrase "checks and balances" was coined by Charles-Louis Montesquieu (a French political philosopher) in 1748 he also wrote about dividing the power of a government into a Legislative, Executive, and Judicial branch.

The Legislative Branch is bicameral (it is divided into two parts): the House of Representatives and the Senate. The number of seats that a state has in the House of Representatives is based upon that state's population. Each state has two Senators. This system was agreed upon at the Constitutional Convention after much debate. The states with larger populations favored a system like the House of Representatives (so that they would have more representatives in government and therefore have more power). The states with smaller populations favored a system like the Senate, in which all states have equal representation (so that the larger states would not take too much power). The framers of the US Constitution compromised, and instituted a bicameral Congress.

In addition, the US Constitution sets up a power balance between states and the federal government. It also specifies how to add new states to the USA, and how the Constitution could be ratified and amended.

The Amendments:
Many amendments to the Constitution have been made through the years. The first 10 amendments (additions to the Constitution), called the Bill of Rights, were added in 1791. Tthe Bill of Rights preserve the rights of the people, including the freedom of speech and religion, the right to a speedy trial, and others.

Later, 17 additional amendments were added so far, there have been 27 amendments to the US Constitution.

The US Constitution has been the model for many countries' constitutions around the world. It is a great document that has withstood the test of time in creating a government that has functioned well for over 200 years while preserving individual liberty and justice.

The U.S. Constitution is the oldest national constitution and the shortest. The original US Constitution is on display at the National Archives in Washington, D.C.


PREAMBLE (Introduction) - Explains that the Constitution proposes to establish a more perfect government complete with justice, tranquility, and liberty

ARTICLE I - Establishes the Legislative Branch (House of Representatives and the Senate).

ARTICLE II - Establishes the Executive Branch (headed by the President).

ARTICLE III - Establishes the Judicial Branch (a system of courts and judges).

ARTICLE IV - Establishes the relationship between the states and the federal government. Describes how to admit new states to the Union.

ARTICLE V - Describes how to amend the Constitution.

ARTICLE VI - Establishes the Constitution as the supreme law of the USA. Authorizes the national debt (Congress can borrow money). Public officials must take an oath to support the Constitution.

ARTICLE VII - Lists the requirements for ratification of the Constitution.

AMENDMENTS 1-10 (THE BILL OF RIGHTS) (added in 1791) - Preserves the rights of the people.
Amendment 1 - Freedom of religion, press, speech
Amendment 2 - Right to bear arms
Amendment 3 - Limits the quartering of soldiers
Amendment 4 - Search and seizure of property
Amendment 5 - Right to a trial if accused, no self-incrimination required, no double-jeopardy (you cannot be tried twice for the same crime), right to compensation for takings by gov't.
Amendment 6 - Right to a speedy trial by jury and confrontation of witnesses
Amendment 7 - Right to a trial by jury in civil cases
Amendment 8 - Prohibits cruel and unusual punishment
Amendment 9 - People may have other rights, even if they are not listed here
Amendment 10 - The federal government's powers are limited to those listed in the Constitution

Amendment 11 (1798) - Judicial limits
Amendment 12 (1804) - Method for choosing the President, Vice President
Amendment 13 (1865) - Abolished slavery
Amendment 14 (1868) - Rights of citizenship to all people born in USA or naturalized
Amendment 15 (1870) - Gives the right to vote to all citizens, regardless of color or race, but women are not mentioned
Amendment 16 (1913) - Income tax authorized
Amendment 17 (1913) - Senators elected by the popular vote
Amendment 18 (1919) - Prohibition - Liquor prohibited
Amendment 19 (1920) - Women's suffrage (voting rights)
Amendment 20 (1933) - New terms of office for the President and Congress
Amendment 21 (1933) - Amendment 18 repealed (overturned)
Amendment 22 (1951) - Presidential term limited
Amendment 23 (1961) - Presidential vote given to Washington, D. C.
Amendment 24 (1964) - Poll taxes barred (you cannot charge people to vote)
Amendment 25 (1967) - Presidential disability and succession
Amendment 26 (1971) - Voting age lowered to 18 years old (same as the age at which men can be drafted into the army)
Amendment 27 (1992) - Congressional pay increases go into effect only during the next Congressional session.

The Shortest History of Germany

A revisionist history at odds with everything else I&aposve read. This is not a history, it is a thesis that boils down to an evil race of East Germans that are hell bent on destroying the world for the last 150 years. It&aposs mainly supported with dog whistle factoids, deliberate misinterpretations and outright falsehoods. Either the author has been paid to deliberately write this argument or he is congenitally dishonest.

It&aposs well written and easily consumed, the first 1500 years are gobbled up and it A revisionist history at odds with everything else I've read. This is not a history, it is a thesis that boils down to an evil race of East Germans that are hell bent on destroying the world for the last 150 years. It's mainly supported with dog whistle factoids, deliberate misinterpretations and outright falsehoods. Either the author has been paid to deliberately write this argument or he is congenitally dishonest.

It's well written and easily consumed, the first 1500 years are gobbled up and its tone and invective change with subtlety and at first for me imperceptibly. My reading list is in my profile so the basis of my objections can be found there. Outrage and doubt arrived when I read the following which is presented prior to the criticism of this (apparently) very poor idea "Schools were to be taken out of church control, civil marriages allowed and priests forbidden from engaging in anything that could be termed political [opposition]" attributed to Bismarcks Prussia about 100 years after the US constitution enshrined church and state separation.

I wondered who on earth writing a history book today would object to this? Before reading on I checked the authors bio to discover he thought in an Irish seminary university and this and the rest of the book came into focus.

He claims the Catholic Church deported itself well during the holocaust because 1 German cardinal was under house arrest despite almost total papal silence excepting even more damning luke warm nuanced protestations made far too late. No mention that Catholic Austrians were disproportionately represented in the SS or that of 18,000,000 who served in the Wehrmacht less that a 100 were cited for bravery after the war for protecting war crimes victims (see The Pianist movie for almost the only case). Ludicrously he declares that Prussians were the first to give a legal basis to antisemitism. A total lie, state legal antisemitism dates back thousands of years before its zenith of Hitler approved death camps operated by an enthusiastic SS and compliant greedy and shameful European populations. Legalised antisemitism continues today in states such as Iran. Lying about the bigotry Jews suffered throughout the world up to and beyond the holocaust to make your ridiculous thesis gain weight is a disgraceful trivialisation of history and insulting to Jewish people all over the world and to tens of millions of Germans that accept the facts and try to atone in their own way for the sins of that generation. Tony Judt's Postwar has I think an unrivalled essay at the end of the book about antisemitism which the author here would do well to read.

His current thoughts (not history in any way) about refugees follow the same racist pattern. No suggestion about what to do for the hopeless only to not allow them here. Hardly a philosophy Jesus Christ would support. Europe spends $75bn on refugees that arrive in Europe each year and $5bn on programs to encourage them to remain close to home, that should change and the problem any way is not A Prussian plot as this ignominious fool would have you believe. I hope a scholarly dissection of this crap takes place before to many buy it. I'll give the author a $1000 for every thing I'm incorrect about if he'll just give me my money back if I categorically show where he is lying, I'll leave out that Eva Hitler poisoned herself and was not shot by Adolf Hitler as stated in his book.

In summary dangerous appalling rubbish, handle with care only read if already in possession of the main facts. . more

If anyone is kind enough to read this review I think it only fair to state the following: I am not religious. I speak German. I have lived and worked in Germany and managed German companies in the UK, Africa and Central Asia. I do not claim to be an expert, but do have sufficient knowledge both of history and current affairs to justify this review.

This is not a history, rather a propaganda exercise and, for anyone who knows anything of German and European h If anyone is kind enough to read this review I think it only fair to state the following: I am not religious. I speak German. I have lived and worked in Germany and managed German companies in the UK, Africa and Central Asia. I do not claim to be an expert, but do have sufficient knowledge both of history and current affairs to justify this review.

This is not a history, rather a propaganda exercise and, for anyone who knows anything of German and European history, it is dangerously silly. The author James Hawes is a fanatical EU integrationist and that colours this polemic. In a nutshell Hawes idea (one cannot dignify it with the term 'theory') is that Germany is Roman Catholic and good and Prussia is protestant and bad and when the latter took over the former it made the whole atrocious.

According to Hawes the Franks under Karl der Grosse (Charlemagne) inherited the Roman Empire's goodness and unifying vision. He ignores the fact that the Franks were one of many tribes that occupied much of Europe and spoke a number of Indo-Germanic languages. Charlemagne was a Christian and decided everyone in his empire must be too, imposing the death penalty on those (especially Saxons) who refused to convert. On his death, the Carolingian Empire split into three. The west Franks adopted a Latin dialect and became French. Middle Francia included parts of the Netherlands, Italy, Germany, and Switzerland. East Francia included the rest of Germany. Eventually east and middle Francia minus Burgundy, Switzerland and parts of northern Italy became the Holy Roman Empire (HRE). Hawes would have us believe that the HRE was a coherent political unit. Voltaire summed it up rather better when he remarked that, “it was neither holy, nor Roman, nor really an Empire.” Indeed, it was a geographical area consisting, at the end, of some 1,800 states of varying sizes recognising the HRE as their titular head.

Hawes makes much of the HRE being geographically similar to the Roman province 'Germania'. Apparently, all was well in the Carolingian world until efforts were made to expand east of the Elbe river (For this part of Europe and Germany he invents the term East Elbia a dark place inhabited by - shock horror - Slavs and Prussians!) Prussia is named after its original Slavic inhabitants, but following its 13th century conquest by the catholic Teutonic Knights it was 'Germanised' by immigration from central and western Germany.

In order to justify his risible 'Catholic good Protestants bad' idea he ignores the 30 years war started by Ferdinand II, HRE 1619-1637, who decided to force protestant member states to become catholic. The result was a war that cost millions of lives, in some areas a population loss of 50%. Also, at this time, in catholic areas, there were hysterical witch hunts. The worst were those of Trier where the Catholic Archbishop/Prince Elector Johann von Schoenberg was a man with a mission. First he purged Protestants, then Jews and then witches and an estimated 1,000 men, woman and children convicted of witchcraft were burned by his order. In all over 40,000 people died.

We are whizzed through centuries with the same disregard for history although he pauses to blame Britain for giving Prussia the Rhineland in 1815 thus making it stronger. (The Rhineland states were part of the Confederation of the Rhine a grouping of most of the German states allied to France during the Napoleonic wars. Part of the confederation was ceded to Prussia and became the Rhine Province in 1822). Little mention is made of the ‘Zoll Union’ = ‘Customs union’ created by Bismarck to which all the German states, except Austria, belonged. Bismarck saw it as the means to 'Unify' Germany. He engineered a war with France and when that was over the members woke to find themselves members of an Empire with a new boss. Oddly only Luxembourg escaped joining it. The lesson was, however, well learned. In 1952 Jean Monet (a founding father of the EU) wrote, "Europe's nations should be guided towards the superstate without their people understanding what is happening. This can be accomplished by successive steps, each disguised as having an economic purpose, but which will eventually and irreversibly lead to federation."

Lets skip to the Nazis. They were (you guessed) East Elbian protestant monsters who had almost zero support from the good burgers of Germania. Blithely ignoring Buchenwald, Bergen-Belsen and Dachau (to name just three) he claims the Nazis had to wait until they got to Poland before creating concentration camps. They would not be tolerated in Germania. Writing on page 180, "But T4 had shown the Nazis that, even in wartime, they couldn't just start killing people wholesale in Germany." (T4 was a program to 'put down' mentally ill people - mostly Germans).

At the end of WW2, Germania now separated from East Elbia by the Iron curtain could at last take its place as a truly democratic western nation. Except….Konrad Adenauer did not trust the Germans and wanted West Germany integrated with the west to stop them repeating their past. To aid the process two former Nazis advisors, Ludwig Erhard (Later Chancellor of West Germany) and Karl Blessing (Later president of the Bundesbank) dusted off the plan they had developed for Hitler's post victory nation. The plan was simple. Replace the Reichsmark with the Deutsch Mark at a rate of 15 to one for the people (so they all went bust) and 1 to 1 for industry who had benefited from slave labour. Marshal aid poured in and finally all Germany's debts were written off. Erhard was pleased with everything opining that poverty would make the common man work harder!

Post war the EEC, then the EU and the Euro. Like Adenauer, Kohl did not trust Germans and saw tying them into a currency union as an insurance against resurgent bad habits. People who demanded a democratic vote were told they were too dumb to understand the issues. Quite why dumb people are brainy enough to pick people who can decide was never asked. Since the Euro, Germany has powered ahead financially and no one doubts that EU decisions are made in Berlin. Although vehemently denied by the Germans, the IMF, amongst others, have variously put the benefit for Germany of using an undervalued currency at between 10 and 17 %. Most telling, in 2012 the Bundesbank estimated that a return to the DM (proper value) would involve the loss of 5 million jobs and a drop of 10% in GDP.

Many countries have elements in their history that today’s generations regret, Germany more than most. I do not accept that the only way to deal with that is to punish others. If German leaders don't trust their own people it’s time to get new leaders. The idea that other nations should lose industry and face terrible unemployment in order to prevent German resurgence is ridiculous. The EU in particular and the world in general being locked into an unending payment of Dane Geld is surely a certain recipe for bitterness and strife? It may strike Dawes as a brilliant result, but to use a German word, I'm afraid the Untermenschen may not put up with it. Rewarding Flashman with the headmastership of Rugby was never an option and the post war settlement lauded by Hawes is as bizarre as that would have been.

In his other writings Hawes displays the sneering arrogance typical of the self appointed intelligentsia that dislikes Anglo Saxons, especially British ones. In his book Hawes observes that the German word 'Untergang' = ‘Humiliating defeat' has no equivalent in English. He could have more usefully asked why the word 'Fair' has no German equivalent. One can but hope they will find one in my experience the concept is understood even if it is expressed in English.

This is a squalid little book, but it does raise two interesting questions. 1) Are University degrees useful indicators of intelligence? 2) The book has been review praised in serious journals, one wonders if that was the result of anyone actually reading it? . more

Something that should be said from the start: Hawes is not a historian, his work was not endorsed by historians, and it falls behind even the normally low standards of history books written for the general public. It&aposs barely referenced, lacks a bibliography, and omits facts if they don&apost fit into the author&aposs general argument.

I had one encounter with Hawes before, and it left me intrigued. In September 2017, he wrote an article in the New Statesman in which he explained the then-upcoming Germa Something that should be said from the start: Hawes is not a historian, his work was not endorsed by historians, and it falls behind even the normally low standards of history books written for the general public. It's barely referenced, lacks a bibliography, and omits facts if they don't fit into the author's general argument.

I had one encounter with Hawes before, and it left me intrigued. In September 2017, he wrote an article in the New Statesman in which he explained the then-upcoming German election and the possible rise of the AfD in terms of ancient divisions in Germany. I disagreed with his argument from the start, but it was a bold and well-written article. Maybe this is why I am so disappointed with this book. I expected so much more.

At the very least I expected a proper history book, since it's been branded and sold as such, but what I got instead is a very dubious and confusing demonology manual, complete with fact omissions, logical fallacies, and vague, poor-quality maps that help hide the weakness of the author's argument. Said argument boils down to this: there is something rotten in East Elbia. This apparently doesn't change from Roman times to present, despite the fact that actually many changes happened there, including major population shifts. No, the evilness of East Elbia remains the same across history, and all that has the misfortune to exist there, be it non-Latinized German tribes, Slavs, or Prussians, is equally unworthy of and incapable of assimiliting into Roman/Western culture. Among what I regard as Hawes' most questionable points within this thesis are the following:

- Dismissing the Hussite rebellion in Bohemia as a mere 'Slav pushback' against German domination, and claiming that it was actually just another aspect of the 'ancient' German-Slavic conflict beyond the Elbe. It's safe to say that this is not the point of view of the majority of historiography on the subject

- The whole idea of an ancient, everlasting German-Slav struggle in Eastern Europe, which comes up again and again throughout the book. According to Hawes, Germany lost both world wars because Prussia (or the Prussian elite) were so blinded by this struggle. This is so wrong, so propagandistic and so scary that I can't even comprehend how it got printed in 2018

- Dismissing Luther as a mere populist, and his brand of Protestantism as something that will poison Germany forever. While yes, Luther was something of a populist (this becomes very clear if you look at how different his points of view were from those of liberal contemporaries like Erasmus), dismissing the effect his legitimate criticism of the Catholic Church had on Christinity everywhere is absurd. Dismissing Protestantism as a whole because Protestant areas of Germany voted more heavily for Hitler than Catholic areas is equally absurd. It becomes even more ridiculous when Hawes says nonsense like "Berlin is closer to (Catholic) Warsaw and (Orthodox) Moscow than (virtually Protestant) Washington or (Protestant) London". He clearly means to convey that Prussia is far away from the West therefore barbaric and bad, but his own argument that Catholicism = good / Protestantism = bad makes his point absolutely moot. if all of this sounds confusing, that's because it is. Hawes is so busy dismissing everything to do with 'East Elbia' (from location to religion) that he becomes incoherent

- Painting Otto von Bismarck as a warmongering evil man who manipulated the whole of Europe into believing that his version of Germany is the real one. Bismarck was in fact an able statesman both abroad (he managed to create the first modern Germany that worked) and at home (where he created things like history's first modern welfare state). After he unified his country, he became very dedicated to maintaing the balance of power (hence peace) between powers in Europe, which is why I have no idea why Hawes is convinced Bismarck was particularly intent on war. Hawes even goes so far as to attack Bismarck's decision to support Austria-Hungary against the Russian Empire's ambitions in the Balkans, seeing it not as the balance-of-power-maintaing effort that it was, but as a decision based on the 'ancient' German-Slav conflict, which subconsciously influenced Prussian Bismarck, according to Hawes. He (even more ridiculously) has a go at Bismarck for the secularization campaigns in Germany known as Kulturkampf (these actually happened in several other European states, which Hawes neglects to mention). These were apparently so terrible that they traumatized the country's Catholic politicians forever, to the point where they helped Hitler gain a majority in the Reichstag. I kid you not, here's the quote from pp169-170: "The Centre Party decides, after agonised debate, that if it votes against a 51.9% national mandate, Germany's Catholics will be cast once again as traitors to the will of the people, and suffer a vicious new Kulturkampf. Hitler gets his super-majority, and democracy in Germany ends."

- Claiming that Prussia was a more or less artificial state created and supported by 'Slavs' (created under the Polish crown, supported by Russia at one point etc), hence it's terrible influence on the actual Germany. Hawes never mentions the fact that 'the Slavs' were in most cases very modern by contemporary standards (Hus in what would be today's Czech Republic preceded Luther the Polish-Lithunian Commonwealth had a constitutional monarchy, high levels of diversity and religious tolerance) and can therefore not take the blame for Prussia's unfortunate character

I could go on forever, but I think I've proven my point. This book is a mess highlighting very little of that bold argument I glimpsed in the New Statesman article, and a lot of the author's prejudices and biases. . more

The Constitution of the United Kingdom

Many nations around the world govern through a written constitution, which lays out the fundamental laws of the land and rights of the people in one single legal document. So why doesn’t the UK have a written constitution? The answer can be found in our history.

Emerging nations around the world have had to start from scratch and produce a written constitution setting out their laws and citizens’ rights. Some more established countries have had to adopt a written constitution due to revolt or war. However Britain escaped the revolutionary zeal of the late 18th and 19th centuries, and so the UK constitution, often referred to as the British constitution, has evolved over centuries.

Democracy in Britain is based on Acts of Parliament, historical documents, court judgments, legal precedence and convention. The earliest date in the history of our constitution is 1215 when the barons forced King John to accept the Magna Carta, the ‘Great Charter of the Liberties of England’, which limited the power of the king, making him subject to the law of the land. Two of its key principles, the right to a fair trial by one’s peers and protection from unlawful imprisonment, form the basis of common law in Britain. Magna Carta would also be a major influence on the US constitution.

The Provisions of Oxford in 1258 set out the basis for the governance of England. 24 members would make up a Council governed by the monarch but supervised by a parliament. The first parliament, made up of knights, lords and common men drawn from the towns and cities, was presided over by Simon de Montfort, widely regarded as the founder of the House of Commons.

The Petition of Rights of 1628 set out some further rights and liberties of the people, including freedom from arbitrary arrest and punishment.

Another landmark piece of legislation was the Bill of Rights of 1689. This followed the ‘Glorious Revolution’ of 1688, in which William III and Queen Mary replaced King James II. This bill declared that the monarch could not rule without consent of Parliament. As part of the bill, Parliament would meet regularly there would be free elections and freedom of speech in the chamber. It outlined specific liberties for the people, including the freedom to bear arms for self-defence, freedom from taxes imposed by the monarch without the consent of Parliament and the freedom from cruel and unusual punishment.

The Act of Settlement of 1701 controlled who should succeed to the throne and established the vital principle of judicial independence. The number of men entitled to vote was greatly increased by the 1832 Great Reform Act, and the Representation of the People’s Act of 1928 gave all men and women over the age of 21 the right to vote.

These and other written laws form just part of the constitution of the United Kingdom. Political customs or conventions are the unwritten rules that are vital to the workings of government. The office of Prime Minister is one of these conventions: legally the Monarch appoints the Prime Minister, who by convention is the leader of the largest party (or coalition of parties) after a General Election and commands the confidence of the House of Commons.

The Houses of Parliament

Parliament is made up of three entities: the Monarchy, the House of Commons and the House of Lords. To become law, bills have to be passed by both Houses and then given Royal Assent. By convention and in practice today, the Queen automatically gives her consent, although in theory she has the absolute and legal power to refuse.

By convention, all ministers in government must have a seat in either the House of Commons or the House of Lords. The Prime Minister and Chancellor of the Exchequer must have a seat in the House of Commons. This convention makes the elected government responsible and accountable to Parliament. This is known as the Westminster system of parliamentary government.

Entry into the European Economic Community in 1973 and membership of the European Union brought Britain under the jurisdiction of the European courts in many areas. Some people today see this as an undermining of parliamentary sovereignty, commonly regarded as the defining principle of the British constitution, and cite this as one of the arguments for Brexit (Britain leaving the European Union).

What would be the advantages of a written constitution? Those of us who have followed the Brexit debates in the House of Commons on television have done so in disbelief and confusion. Many today believe that parliament is at best in crisis and at worst ‘not fit for purpose’, and that a written constitution might clarify the position. Others claim that a system that has evolved over centuries is the best for Britain and a written constitution covering all our laws, liberties and conventions would be incredibly difficult to produce.

Whatever your point of view, the British system of government at Westminster (‘The Mother of Parliaments’) has formed the basis of parliamentary democracy of many countries around the world.

Judicial review

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Judicial review, power of the courts of a country to examine the actions of the legislative, executive, and administrative arms of the government and to determine whether such actions are consistent with the constitution. Actions judged inconsistent are declared unconstitutional and, therefore, null and void. The institution of judicial review in this sense depends upon the existence of a written constitution.

The conventional usage of the term judicial review could be more accurately described as “constitutional review,” because there also exists a long practice of judicial review of the actions of administrative agencies that require neither that courts have the power to declare those actions unconstitutional nor that the country have a written constitution. Such “administrative review” assesses the allegedly questionable actions of administrators against standards of reasonableness and abuse of discretion. When courts determine challenged administrative actions to be unreasonable or to involve abuses of discretion, those actions are declared null and void, as are actions that are judged inconsistent with constitutional requirements when courts exercise judicial review in the conventional or constitutional sense.

Whether or not a court has the power to declare the acts of government agencies unconstitutional, it can achieve the same effect by exercising “indirect” judicial review. In such cases the court pronounces that a challenged rule or action could not have been intended by the legislature because it is inconsistent with some other laws or established legal principles.

Constitutional judicial review is usually considered to have begun with the assertion by John Marshall, fourth chief justice of the United States (1801–35), in Marbury v. Madison (1803), that the Supreme Court of the United States had the power to invalidate legislation enacted by Congress. There was, however, no express warrant for Marshall’s assertion of the power of judicial review in the actual text of the Constitution of the United States its success rested ultimately on the Supreme Court’s own ruling, plus the absence of effective political challenge to it.

Constitutional judicial review exists in several forms. In countries that follow U.S. practice (e.g., Kenya and New Zealand), judicial review can be exercised only in concrete cases or controversies and only after the fact—i.e., only laws that are in effect or actions that have already occurred can be found to be unconstitutional, and then only when they involve a specific dispute between litigants. In France judicial review must take place in the abstract (i.e., in the absence of an actual case or controversy) and before promulgation (i.e., before a challenged law has taken effect). In other countries (e.g., Austria, Germany, South Korea, and Spain) courts can exercise judicial review only after a law has taken effect, though they can do so either in the abstract or in concrete cases. Systems of constitutional judicial review also differ in the extent to which they allow courts to exercise it. For example, in the United States all courts have the power to entertain claims of unconstitutionality, but in some countries (e.g., France, Germany, New Zealand, and South Africa) only specialized constitutional courts can hear such claims.

A number of the constitutions drafted in Europe and Asia after World War II incorporated judicial review in various forms. For example, in France, where the Cour de Cassation (the highest court of criminal and civil appeal) has no power of judicial review, a constitutional council (Conseil Constitutionnel) of mixed judicial-legislative character was established Germany, Italy, and South Korea created special constitutional courts and India, Japan, and Pakistan set up supreme courts to exercise judicial review in the manner generally used in the United States and in the British Commonwealth.

Magna Carta

For most people, especially abroad, the United Kingdom does not have a constitution at all in the sense most commonly used around the world &ndash a document of fundamental importance setting out the structure of government and its relationship with its citizens. All modern states, saving only the UK, New Zealand and Israel, have adopted a documentary constitution of this kind, the first and most complete model being that of the United States of America in 1788. However, in Britain we certainly say that we have a constitution, but it is one that exists in an abstract sense, comprising a host of diverse laws, practices and conventions that have evolved over a long period of time. The key landmark is the Bill of Rights (1689), which established the supremacy of Parliament over the Crown following the forcible replacement of King James II (r. 1685&ndash88) by William III (r. 1689&ndash1702) and Mary (r. 1689&ndash94) in the Glorious Revolution (1688).

From a comparative perspective, we have what is known as an &lsquounwritten constitution&rsquo, although some prefer to describe it as &lsquouncodified&rsquo on the basis that many of our laws of a constitutional nature are in fact written down in Acts of Parliament or law reports of court judgments. This aspect of the British constitution, its unwritten nature, is its most distinguishing characteristic.

The Bill of Rights

This declaration of 1689, known as the Bill of Rights, stated that it was illegal for the Crown to suspend or dispense with the law, and insisted on due process in criminal trials.

Usage terms © Parliamentary Archives, London HL/PO/JO/10/1/1430, membrs. 2&ndash3
Held by© Parliamentary Archives, London HL/PO/JO/10/1/1430, membrs. 2–3

Features of Britain&rsquos unwritten constitution

Another characteristic of the unwritten constitution is the special significance of political customs known as &lsquoconventions&rsquo, which oil the wheels of the relationship between the ancient institutions of state. These are unwritten rules of constitutional practice, vital to our politics, the workings of government, but not committed into law or any written form at all. The very existence of the office of Prime Minister, our head of government, is purely conventional. So is the rule upon which he or she is appointed, being whoever commands the confidence of the House of Commons (the majority party leader, or head of a coalition of parties).

The Monarchy is one of the three components of Parliament (shorthand for the Queen-in-Parliament) along with Commons and Lords. In legal theory, the Queen has absolute and judicially unchallengeable power to refuse her assent to a Bill passed by the two Houses of Parliament. However, convention dictates the precise opposite and in practice she automatically gives her assent to any government Bill that has been duly passed and agreed by Parliament. Another important convention is that government ministers must have a seat in Parliament (and, in the case of the Prime Minister and Chancellor of the Exchequer, specifically in the House of Commons) in order to hold office. This is a vital aspect of what is known as the &lsquoWestminster system of parliamentary government&rsquo, providing a direct form of executive responsibility and accountability to the legislature.

The written documents of our unwritten constitution

There is irony in the fact that the United Kingdom today does not have a written constitution, yet historically it has had a rich heritage of pioneering constitutional charters and documentation. First and foremost is Magna Carta (1215), the &lsquoGreat Charter of the Liberties of England&rsquo. This established the principle that our rulers, at that time the king, could not do whatever they liked, but were subject to the law as agreed with the barons they governed. This simple concept laid the foundations for constitutional government and freedom under the law. Insofar as Magna Carta was &lsquothe first great public act of the nation&rsquo, it also established the direction of travel for our political system towards representative institutions and, much later, democracy itself.

Magna Carta 1215

One of the four surviving copies of the 1215 Magna Carta containing the famous clause &lsquoto no one will we sell, to no one deny or delay right or justice&rsquo.

Public Domain in most countries other than the UK.

In 1258, the Provisions of Oxford, sometimes referred to as the first ever written constitution, provided for a Council of twenty-four members through whom the King should govern, to be supervised by a Parliament. This was convened for the first time in 1264 by Simon de Montfort (d. 1265). During the constitutional conflicts of the 17th century, the Petition of Right (1628) relied on Magna Carta for its legal basis, setting out rights and liberties of the subject including freedom from arbitrary arrest and punishment. The Bill of Rights (1689) then settled the primacy of Parliament over the monarch&rsquos prerogatives, providing for the regular meeting of Parliament, free elections to the Commons, free speech in parliamentary debates, and some basic human rights, most famously freedom from &lsquocruel or unusual punishment&rsquo. This was shortly followed by the Act of Settlement (1701) which controlled succession to the Crown, and established the vital principle of judicial independence.

Image of the House of Commons, from True Platforme and Manner of the Sitting in the Lower House of Parliament

This is the earliest representation of the House of Commons. It is unlikely to be accurate in all its details, but it gives an impression of the tall, narrow and cramped chamber in which the House met.

The Petition of Right

The Commons asserted their interpretation of the law by presenting Charles with a &lsquoPetition of Right&rsquo, rather than a formal bill, implying that they were claiming the subject&rsquos existing rights, rather than creating new ones.

Usage terms © Parliamentary Archives, London HL/PO/PU/1/1627/3c1n2

Over the past century there have been a number of Acts of Parliament on major constitutional subjects that, taken together, could be viewed as creating a tier of constitutional legislation, albeit patchy in their range and with no special status or priority in law. They include:

  • The Parliament Acts (1911&ndash49) that regulate the respective powers of the two Houses of Parliament.
  • The Representation of the People Acts (1918) (as amended) providing for universal voting and other matters of political representation.
  • The European Communities Act (1972) making the UK a legal partner in the European Union.
  • The Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland devolution Acts of 1998 (as amended) creating an executive and legislature for each of those three nations in the UK.
  • The Human Rights Act (1998) establishing a bill of rights and freedoms actionable by individuals through the courts.

Recently, too, some conventions have been subject to an ad hoc codification, such as the principles of ministerial responsibilities in the Ministerial Code.

Human Rights Act 1998

The purpose of the Human Rights Act was to incorporate into UK law the rights and freedoms guaranteed under the European Convention on Human Rights (1953).

Should the UK have a written constitution?

The question then arises in this 800th anniversary year &ndash should the UK now take steps to codify all its laws, rules and conventions governing the government of the country into one comprehensive document, &lsquoa new Magna Carta&rsquo? The case for a written UK constitution has been debated at our universities and by politicians of all parties for several decades and has been the subject of a House of Commons committee inquiry during the 2010&ndash15 Parliament. If a written constitution for the future is to be prepared, it must be one that engages and involves everyone, especially young people, and not simply legal experts and parliamentarians. Some of the mystique and charm of our ancient constitution might be lost in the process, but a written constitution could bring government and the governed closer together, above all by making the rules by which our political democracy operates more accessible and intelligible to all.

  • Written by Robert Blackburn
  • Robert Blackburn (LLD, FRHistS) is Professor of Constitutional Law at King&rsquos College London. He has published many books on political and constitutional affairs, among them The Electoral System in Britain (Macmillan, 1995), Fundamental Rights in Europe (OUP, 2001), Parliament (2nd ed., Sweet & Maxwell, 2002) and King and Country (Politico&rsquos, 2006). He is a member of the Magna Carta 800th Anniversary Committee.

The text in this article is available under the Creative Commons License.

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