Sunday, January 21, 2007

Reviewed: Wicks, The Evolution of a Constitution: Eight Key Moments in British Constitutional History

The Law and Politics Book Review has a new review by David Erdos, University of York, of Elizabeth Wick, THE EVOLUTION OF A CONSTITUTION: EIGHT KEY MOMENTS IN BRITISH CONSTITUTIONAL HISTORY. Erdos writes, in part:
Over the past fifteen or so years there has been an explosion of interest in British constitutional law and politics. Other than those which are directly legal or philosophical in nature, the most prominent emergent scholarship has focused specifically on the policy concerns and developments of the Blair era. Complementary to this literature, the monograph under review takes a broader approach. In particular, Elizabeth Wicks uses “historical investigation to cast new light upon the constitution of today” (p.1). The result is a useful and important text which admirably demonstrates that study of historical events remains highly relevant to today’s constitutional controversies.
THE EVOLUTION OF A CONSTITUTION is structured chronologically around eight “landmark” moments within British constitutional history, from the Glorious Revolution of 1688 to the Devolution Settlement of 1998. In addition to these two events, Wicks also focuses on the union between England and Scotland in 1707, the ascendancy of Robert Walpole as the Crown’s first minister in 1721, the Great Reform Act of 1832, the Parliament Act of 1911, ratification of the European Convention in 1953 and the UK joining the European Community in 1972. Each of the main chapters pivots around an analysis of one of these events. In addition, other related developments are given consideration. For example, the chapter on the Great Reform Act also examines the later expansion of the franchise during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Similarly, the chapter on the ratification of the European Convention deals briefly with the later passage of the Human Rights Act in 1998 “incorporating” Convention rights in the UK law. This structure focuses the reader’s interest on particular periods when constitutional issues were at the fore of British politics whilst also achieving a broadly comprehensive overview of the country’s constitutional development. Nevertheless, it might be noted in passing that certain topics such as the UK’s changing constitutional relationship with what are now fellow members of the Commonwealth remain largely unexplored despite the fact that the passage of, say, the Statute of Westminster Act in 1931 would appear to provide a perfect “landmark” event around which to explore such issues....
This work clearly deserves a broad readership. It may provide a useful starting point for both socio-legal scholars and political scientists interested in including the British constitution and its historical development within their research agenda. Also, given the topicality and interest of the material presented, the book should also attract a more general readership particularly within the UK itself....

For the rest, click here.