The English Historical Constitution

Continuity, Change and European Effects

The English Historical Constitution

The fundamental legal and institutional changes of recent decades have brought the English constitution into question. Accompanying issues have been the extent to which its traditional character and main features have been changed, lost their former appeal and retained their distinctness in the European Union. These issues are not readily addressed in everyday thinking about a constitution simply conceived as unwritten or in constitutional accounts variously preoccupied with abstract analysis, political accountability or transcendent norms. The English Historical Constitution addresses these issues by developing a historical constitutional approach and thus elaborating on continuity and change in the constitution's main doctrines and institutions. From an English legal perspective, it offers a complement or corrective to analytical, political and normative approaches by reforming an old conception of the historical constitution and of its history, partly obscured and long neglected through the modern analytical preoccupation with its law as an abstract scheme of rules, principles and practices.


'… a deeply impressive piece of legal scholarship. The depth of research is striking when dealing with topics more usually found in legal history books and the strength of analysis on topics of constitutional theory is both extraordinarily lucid and consistent.' The Law Quarterly Review

'John Allison's new book is a welcome attempt to place - or rather to replace - a sense of history at the heart of English constitutional law scholarship. … Allison's analysis of the Crown is fascinating … In his nuanced and elegant treatment of the separation of powers … he traces many of the similarities and differences between the English and French understandings … Allison is (to my mind refreshingly) impatient with both the leading schools of thought on the sovereignty of Parliament … In a brilliant passage, Allison shows just how empty vague reliance on 'constitutional principle' can be. … He has valiantly demonstrated the need for constitutional lawyers to embrace as part of their scholarship a sense of history …' Modern Law Review

'Regardless of whether one approves of, or is troubled by, the [recent constitutional] reforms, there is much in this book by way of intellectual nourishment for all students of constitutional law and history.' Commonwealth Lawyer

'From Coke, through Dicey, to the Human Rights Act 1998, Allison beautifully describes the modes of gradual change of the English historical constitution.' American Journal of Legal History

'The English Historical Constitution is an important work which deserves careful study by constitutional lawyers. … [It is] a book that is worth reading many times.' Public Law