The Modern British Constitution: Reformed or Undermined? Cover Image
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The Modern British Constitution: Reformed or Undermined?
The Modern British Constitution: Reformed or Undermined?

Author(s): Harry T. Dickinson
Subject(s): History
Published by: Editura Cetatea de Scaun
Keywords: British constitution; Westminster Parliament; House of Lords and House of Commons; sovereignty; representation; European Union; devolution

Summary/Abstract: Britain has the oldest constitutional and representative system of government in the world, but it is unusual among modern states in not having a written constitution. From the Glorious Revolution of 1688-89 onwards, Britain gradually developed a stable constitution that enshrined the joint sovereignty of the monarch, the House of Lords and the House of Commons, while defending the liberties of the people and making the legislature increasingly responsible to a widening electorate that eventually, by the earlier twentieth century, included all adults, male and female. Until the late twentieth century this constitution enjoyed massive support at home and was greatly admired abroad. Developments over recent decades, however, have posed serious challenges to this long established and well-supported constitution. The most important developments have been the changes made by Britain’s entry into the European Community, the growing concern about the decline in parliament’s authority, the rise of nationalist sentiment in the non-English parts of the United kingdom that have resulted in the devolution of power from the Westminster Parliament to regional legislative bodies in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, and the widespread desire to democratize the composition of the House of Lords but the absence of any agreement how to do this. Many changes have been made and others contemplated but not achieved over recent decades. It is still far from clear, however, whether these changes have improved or undermined a constitution that has served Britain so well over the previous three centuries.

  • Issue Year: 2011
  • Issue No: 16
  • Page Range: 177-197
  • Page Count: 21
  • Language: English