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The British Constitution: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) [Kindle Edition]

Martin Loughlin
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)

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Book Description

The British constitution is regarded as unique among the constitutions of the world. What are the main characteristics of Britain's peculiar constitutional arrangements? How has the British constitution altered in response to the changing nature of its state - from England, to Britain, to the United Kingdom? What impact has the UK's developing relations with the European Union caused?

These are some of the questions that Martin Loughlin addresses in this Very Short Introduction. As a constitution, it is one that has grown organically in response to changes in the economic, political, and social environment, and which is not contained in a single authoritative text.

By considering the nature and authority of the current British constitution, and placing it in the context of others, Loughlin considers how the traditional idea of a constitution came to be retained, what problems have been generated as a result of adapting a traditional approach in a modern political world, looking at what the future prospects for the British constitution are.

ABOUT THE SERIES: The Very Short Introductions series from Oxford University Press contains hundreds of titles in almost every subject area. These pocket-sized books are the perfect way to get ahead in a new subject quickly. Our expert authors combine facts, analysis, perspective, new ideas, and enthusiasm to make interesting and challenging topics highly readable.

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Product Description


Oxford has managed to get one of the most sophisticated British scholars of modern public law to produce a brief and readable account. (London Review of Books)

About the Author

Martin Loughlin is Professor of Public Law at the London School of Economics. He previously held professorial appointments at the Universities of Glasgow and Manchester. His publications include Sword and Scales (2000), The Idea of Public Law (2003), and Foundations of Public Law (2010). He is a Fellow of the British Academy. In 2012-13, he is the Martin and Kathleen Crane Fellow in the Law and Public Affairs Program and Visiting Professor at Princeton University.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 2593 KB
  • Print Length: 152 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0199697698
  • Publisher: OUP Oxford; 1 edition (25 April 2013)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00C2QT3P8
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #229,028 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Cautious, dry, but thoroughly informative 13 Sept. 2013
By Jonathan VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
The 'Very Short Introduction' series contains some attractive titles and is ideal for subjects like this, where a curious reader wants to know more, but doesn't want to embark on a worthy hardback book or demanding textbook. The question is, were to pitch it? The 'Graphic Guides' by Icon seem to have pitched too dumb and the 'For Dummies' series goes for completion, so OUP are carving out a nice niche with this series which aims for academic rigour in pocketbook proportions.

Martin Loughlin has written widely on law and political theory and brings considerable expertise to bear on this topic which some people would argue is a non-existent subject. Loughlin tackles things head on, outlining the main positions on the British constitution (namely, that it's a priceless political treasure guaranteeing the freedoms of the common man, an archaic pantomime concealing the machinations of an efficient modern state or a mercurial expedient that enables governments to do 'whatever works'). Right from the outset he draws the contrast between Britain's unwritten, evolving or organic constitutions and the written constitutions that emerged from the Enlightenment and dominate political theory almost everywhere else in the world.

This is a tough subject and one which assumes the reader has a reasonable grasp of history, politics and political philosophy. You don't need a Degree to follow Loughlin's arguments, but it helps if you read a broadsheet newspaper. The author, I think wisely, accepts that a certain level of contextual knowledge must be a given with this topic and forges ahead, making few concessions to the reader's ignorance. After all, if you're not familiar with (say) the Whigs and the Tories, then Wikipedia is probably only a click away.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The United Kingdom has an uncodified constitution 9 Sept. 2013
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This `A Very Short Introduction' brings a lot of information to the fore and is presented in readable fashion that is, and as far as I was concerned, accessible and not a `dry treatment', that said there seems to be little methodology in delivery, but rather at times a more author driven prose. The author does a decent job of explaining the fundamental aspects, of the British Constitution. Some reviewers have commented there is a lot of `jargon', while this point can be appreciated I think that anyone would find it hard to provide the information needed without the use of the appropriate terms, that said in my reading I found the internet/dictionary rather helpful in deciphering many of the terms used in the book.

The British Constitution is shown through the almost evolutionary way it has evolved throughout the history of Britain, illustrating the way it has been amended and revised over time. The Constitution is uncodified and is not set out in any one single document. The process for this has been where, in the case of the United Kingdom, the political system developed over time was and is constantly being defined by acts of Government, Statutes, decisions of the Law Courts and Treaties. In the last case `Treaties', it is important to note that through Britain's membership in the European Union, European Law (EU Law) has had an impact on the British Constitution.
Other Constitutions have developed in other ways such as through sudden change, for example in the case of revolution, and the subsequent creation of the United States. This then sets the stage for the current precepts that make the British Constitution what it is today.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Many myths are frequently retold about the British Constitution: that it reflects the Anglo-Saxon pattern of government, that it was established by the Magna Carta, that it is superior to written constitutions by virtue of being unwritten. In this short but densely written tomelette, Martin Loughlin exposes these romantic notions for what they are, while guiding the reader through the history of our constitution, the key critical discussions of it, and what he thinks ought to happen next.

This is highly worthy, and the writing is detailed enough to delight a Constitutional History Club (yes, they really do exist). It is also very up to date, taking into account the attempts under the last government to begin to establish written constitutionality, and the impacts of the current coalition.

I would give this five stars, except for the fact that it just isn't as entertaining as some of the other Very Short Introductions, and requires a considerable commitment by the reader to get through. By comparison with, say, Rhetoric: A Very Short Introduction, it doesn't make you want to read it.

A good start for a politics undergraduate, though, or anyone considering standing for parliament in 2015.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Strong on history and law, weaker on practice 3 Oct. 2013
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
We live in a society in the UK where constitutional issues are addressed on the hoof - evidence the latest Conservative Party conference promise to repeal the Human Rights Act. Was it ever thus - Professor Loughlin reviews the incremental history of the British constitution, and its pragmatic sticking on of bits and taking them away. There are plenty of facts, and he canters through a series of historic changes that I failed to quite take in when studying history at school, pointing out the interesting bits and what people thought about them at the time. There is plenty of academic legal perspective - the shifting ground of constitution as practice versus a `rationalist' written down approach, and what judges have said in recent years.

Really, Loughlin would like us to care more. He thinks the British constitution is in crisis with the eating away of traditional checks and balances and the eating away of convention and the protection and liberty of the individual. He thinks it entirely right that the judiciary has set itself the agenda of re-establishing some checks and balances and the rule of higher laws - like the Human Rights Act - to prevent the Executive doing whatever it pleases. Probably, though he does not quite say, he thinks it should be written down even more, because the constitution as it stands is now `weak'.

So he offers a useful overview and a counterbalance to the current political agenda. At times he comes across as too theoretical - he does not for instance explore the political backlash against the use of judicial review and the Human Rights Act to protect outsiders such as asylum seekers and prisoners. `Coalition' does not get a word check. And his discussion of the liberty of the individual as part of constitutional history does not even casually reference the history of slavery in Britain.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Great for revision purposes.
Published 1 month ago by Anna C.
5.0 out of 5 stars Useful, Concise and Reassuring
I've just started my 3 year law degree at University and the buying of all the books, the size and depth of the text books was daunting! Read more
Published 20 months ago by Drummermolls
5.0 out of 5 stars Enough detail
Quite a dry topic but nevertheless an insight into the workings of the Great British parliamentary system that has been copied in one form or another throughout most of the... Read more
Published 20 months ago by Sally Wilton
4.0 out of 5 stars An introduction but has unevenness of detail due to focus
This introduction to the British Constitution has a very lawyerly approach to the history of the current system of governance and tried to liven things up by positioning the debate... Read more
Published 20 months ago by Jack Chakotay
4.0 out of 5 stars The British Constitution
I am a big fan of the "Very Short..." series of books. They are well-researched and well edited pieces of accomplished academic text which allow the reader to dip in to and briefly... Read more
Published 20 months ago by southcoastreviewer
4.0 out of 5 stars Another solid OUP 'Very short Intro'
This is a very good overview of the amazingly complex and idiosyncratic beast that is the British Constitution. Read more
Published 20 months ago by Zipster Zeus
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent introduction to topic - it does what it says on the 'label'
I would have liked books like this when I was revising for my finals at university nearly forty years ago. This one provides a useful commentary on the British constitution. Read more
Published 21 months ago by D. P. Mankin
5.0 out of 5 stars Great helpful book
It does what it says on the cover and I highly recommend it to anyone interested in our constitutional history and operations
Published 21 months ago by Lynne Walker
4.0 out of 5 stars Constitutional Matters
The British Constitution is remarkable inasmuch as it remains unwritten, although parts of it are in legislative form. Read more
Published 21 months ago by Neutral
5.0 out of 5 stars It raises some very interesting questions
I find it interesting that we do actually have a constitution, but more than that, any constitution is supposed to be a fluid thing, reflecting the current values of a country, not... Read more
Published 21 months ago by C. C. Chivers
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