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A.V. Dicey: General Characteristics of English Constitutionalism

Six Unpublished Lectures- With a Foreword by Lord Plant of Highfield

Peter Raina

Albert Venn Dicey (1835-1922) was elected to the Vinerian professorship of English Law in the University of Oxford in 1882. Dicey established himself as a great expert on constitutional history when in 1885 he published his Introduction to the Study of the Law of the Constitution, a major classic on the British constitutional system. Dicey’s writings have achieved an almost canonical status, and his views are judged almost entirely on this volume. However Dicey developed his views further and extensively in a series of lectures he delivered in the late 1890s in which he focused his thoughts on the sovereignty of Parliament, the relationship between Parliament and the people, and the role of constitutional conventions. Dicey would not defend every detail of the British Constitution, but was quite prepared to consider certain constitutional innovations, such as the principle of referendum to give special status to Constitutional Acts, or that the House of Lords should have more representative legitimacy. Dicey also toyed with the idea of a Constitutional Convention as a basic form of protection for constitutional rules: he argued about constitutional safeguards to remedy the defects of the party system and recognised the adaptability of an unwritten constitution to changed circumstances. All these aspects of Dicey’s thought are reflected in these lectures, published here for the first time.
Contents: Foreword by Lord Plant of Highfield – Memorandum on English Party System of Government – General Characteristics of Existing English Constitutionalism – Comparison between English & other Executives: Parliamentary & non-Parliamentary Executives – Cromwellian Constitution of 1653 – English Constitutionalism under George the Third (1785) – Memorandum on Party Government.