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The British Constitution: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) Paperback – 25 Apr 2013


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Product details

  • Paperback: 152 pages
  • Publisher: OUP Oxford (25 April 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199697698
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199697694
  • Product Dimensions: 17 x 1.5 x 11.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 68,463 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Product Description

Review

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.

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Customer Reviews

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Jonathan Rowe VINE VOICE on 13 Sep 2013
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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer TOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 9 Sep 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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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By The Guardian TOP 50 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 14 July 2013
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The `Very Short Introduction' series was started by Oxford University Press in 1995 and now contains some 300 titles on historic, economic and social subjects, mostly written by academic specialists in their particular field.

Martin Loughlin is Professor of Public Law at the LSE and author of a small number of books on various aspects of law published for a specialised academic readership, so well qualified to offer a condensed 118-page overview of the history, development and unique philosophical underpinnings of the British constitution.

The result is a quite detailed critique of this unique global phenomenon and how it came to be, generally written from a lawyer's perspective. For example Loughlin explains how Magna Carta and the 1689 Bill of Rights were seen from the Whig political tradition not as new developments in liberty and democracy, but merely codifying into law those rights which were universally understood to have existed since Anglo-Saxon times under the Common Law. The chapters covering the 1707 Act of Union between England and Scotland and exactly how this has worked in practice, and the process whereby political power was transferred from the `King-in-Parliament' to the political parties with the Monarch reduced to a ceremonial Head of State are quite enlightening, but not easy reading for the mind untrained in legal jargon.

Loughlin illustrates some of the potential dangers of having unwritten conventions underpinning the constitution, and uses the example of Tony Blair's government in the 1990s.
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