An Historical Introduction to Western Constitutional Law

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The constitutional question is of paramount importance in the political and nationalist agenda of late twentieth-century Europe. Arguments focus on the best form of constitutional organization: democracy versus autocracy, unitary versus federal organization, pluralism versus intolerance, centralism versus regionalism, national sovereignty versus European. Professor van Caenegem's new book addresses these fundamental questions by analysing different models of constitutional government through a historical perspective, assessing why some models were established and others rejected.

The book's approach is pragmatic and chronological: constitutionalism is explained not as a paradigm devised by a team of jurists, but as the result of many centuries of trial and error.

The narrative begins in the early Middle Ages and concludes with contemporary debates, taking as its focus the main European countries, the United States, and finally the former Soviet Union. Special attention is devoted to the rise of the rule of law, and of constitutional, parliamentary and federal forms of government.

The Anglo-American contribution to the ascendancy of present-day liberal democracy is underlined, but the latter's rejection by twentieth-century totalitarian regimes also receives extensive treatment. The epilogue discusses the future of liberal democracy as a universal model.

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Editorial Reviews

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"...this well-written work provides a grand perspective and judicious abalysis of issues for its intended audience of undergraduates and law students, those 'who want to place their own constitution, which is part of their curriculum, in an international and historical perspective, but who lack the time and the languages to read the relevant national legal histories." Albert J. Schmidt, Law and History Review
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521476935
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 4/28/1995
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 338
  • Product dimensions: 5.43 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.79 (d)

Table of Contents

1 Introduction 1
2 Tribal kingship: from the fall of Rome to the end of the Merovingians 34
3 The First Europe: the Carolingian empire 43
4 Europe divided: the post-Carolingian era 54
5 The foundation of the modern state 72
6 The classic absolutism of the Ancient Regime 91
7 The absolute state no lasting model 108
8 The bourgeois nation state 194
9 The liberal model transformed or rejected 244
Epilogue 292
Select bibliography 296
Index 319
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