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The English Constitution

5.0 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1846379086
ISBN-10: 1846379083
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Editorial Reviews

Review

"This timely new edition of Bagehot's classic study is essential reading for today's constitutional reformers and students of Britain's elective dictatorship. Gavin Phillipson's scholarly and shrewd introduction makes key links between past and present." --Lord Lester of Herne Hill QC. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Book Description

Editor of The Economist from 1861 until his death, Walter Bagehot (1826-77) wrote across an array of subjects, from banking to literature. In this classic 1867 publication, he sought to describe the 'living reality' of how Britain was governed, making a notable distinction between 'dignified' and 'efficient' constitutional components. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 164 pages
  • Publisher: Echo Library (October 31, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1846379083
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846379086
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.4 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,580,503 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
First, to the reviewer looking for the doctrine of separation of powers: you'll find it in Montequieu's "Spirit of the Laws". Also check out "The Federalist", number 51.
Now then, Bagehot, like Madison, describes the operation of a modern liberal regime. The trick for founders of liberal government is to produce a government that permits the people civil liberties, but does not permit the people to abuse those liberties, or in the words of Madison, to create a government that is "democratic yet decent". Madison and the American Founders accomplish this end by so constructing the institutions of government that mens' selfish natures will be turned against each other ("ambition is made to check ambition"), rather than united in tyrannical concert.
Bagehot too describes the operation of a system of government that rules by the consent of the governed, yet which does so by restraining the vices of those who ought not to rule. Bagehot argues that the English government is moderate and decent because of a division of government into the "dignified" and the "efficient" parts, and a "noble lie" about the relationship between the two. It is this noble lie that permits the government to operate without the interference of those who would turn it away from the public good. But to discover the noble lie, you'll have to read Bagehot.
Warner Winborne
Professor of Political Science
Hampden-Sydney College
Hampden-Sydney, VA
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Format: Paperback
If this is the unaltered version of the book of the same name and same author that I read about 30 years ago, it is a classic. It describes how the classic English Constitution worked, before Britain joined the European Union. Especially it explained how it worked without being written down, largely by constitutional convention which was morally binding but (quite often) not legally binding.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Still arguably the leading exposition of the traditions, common law, historical Parliamentary acts, concessions of the crown (most famously, Magna Carta), and usages that comprise the nation's unwritten "constitution," as England uses that term. The writing seems stilted by modern standards and the journalistic approach overly respectful of ruling class sensibilities, perhaps, again by modern standards. But a foundational work and an ambitious one in its day all the same. I rate it highly not because it is great literature or even great scholarship, but because I think it endures as important in this area.
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