Britain’s Constitutional History

Britain has an unwritten constitution and so most of its constitutional history reflects this. Below are some of the documents and links that have been used by our party in developing its understanding of the imperative for Britain to have a written constitution.

There is a range of documents from before and after the Civil War that are considered fundamental to Britain’s constitutional history. We should acquaint ourselves with the structures and processes involved in British Constitutional life. Where does the constitution derive from historically and on a day to day (more year or decade) basis? The ideas of the rule of law, supremacy of parliament, parliamentary privilege… are somewhat mythical, but have practical implications.

The role of the monarch, the cabinet and ministers change frequently, sometimes with regular effect on current affairs. The power of the police in dealing with protest and maintaining public order, as well as a range of legal-administrative issues e.g. judicial review, come to the fore in a study of the unwritten constitution. -Important issues must be looked at under other sections or in other forums, including the role of the EU and devolution.

Some texts that might be found useful

Included are links to some of the most important documents of our constitutional history. We will however be studying the Bill of Rights of 1688.

Magna Carta

Petition of Rights 1624

English Bill of Rights 1689

Act of Settlement 1700

Acts of Union 1706/1707

Background Reading

Read AL Morton’s A People’s History of England. Chapter IX, Section 4 The compromise of 1688;

International background to the Glorious Revolution

The unspoken constitution bringing things up to 2009, there have been many changes since.

Some Questions

  • How supreme is parliament today? What factors stand against a representative body voted by a majority making legislation in favour of the wishes of the population of working people?
  • What steps have been taken over the last few decades to stamp down on popular dissent, particularly organized working class action?
  • What do we understand by the rule of law, what protection does it affords the people of Britain? Does it protect the working class when acting against the capitalist class? How has this principle been jeopardised by the EU?



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