The Sovereignty of Parliament: History and Philosophy

Paperback | August 15, 2001

byJeffrey Goldsworthy

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The doctrine of parliamentary sovereignty has long been regarded as the most fundamental element of the British Constitution. It holds that Parliament has unlimited legislative authority, and that the courts have no authority to judge statutes invalid. This doctrine has now been criticized onhistorical and philosophical grounds and critics claim that it is a relatively recent invention of academic lawyers that superseded an earlier tradition in which Parliament's authority was limited to common law. The critics also argue that it is based on a misunderstanding of the relationshipbetween statutory and common law, and is morally indefensible.The Sovereignty of Parliament: History and Philosophy responds to these criticisms. It first defines and clarifies the concept of legislative sovereignty and then describes the historical origins and the development of the doctrine from the thirteenth to the end of the nineteenth century. ProfessorGoldsworthy goes on to identify many different reasons why persuaded statesmen, lawyers, and political theorists have endorsed the doctrine. He discusses the ideas of a large number of legal and political thinkers, including Fortescue, St German, Hooker, Coke, Bacon, Parker, Milton, Hobbes, Hale,Locke, Bolingbroke, Blackstone, and Burke. He shows that judges in Great Britain have never had authority to invalidate statutes, and that the doctrine is much older than is generally realized.The book concludes by dealing with philosophical criticisms of the doctrine. Combining the insights of earlier thinkers with those of contemporary legal philosophers, it demonstrates that these criticisms are based on a defective understanding of the nature and foundations of law, and of therelationship between legislative authority and the common law. It argues that the doctrine is morally defensible, and refutes the thesis that the judges have authority to modify or reject it.

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The doctrine of parliamentary sovereignty has long been regarded as the most fundamental element of the British Constitution. It holds that Parliament has unlimited legislative authority, and that the courts have no authority to judge statutes invalid. This doctrine has now been criticized onhistorical and philosophical grounds and cri...

Professor Jeffrey Goldsworthy is Professor of Law at Monash University, Australia

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:330 pages, 9.21 × 6.14 × 1.1 inPublished:August 15, 2001Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0199248087

ISBN - 13:9780199248087

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Table of Contents

1. Introduction2. Defining Parliamentary Sovereignty3. From Bracton to the Reformation4. The Sixteenth Century5. From James 1 to the Restoration6. From the Restoration to the Revolution7. After the Revolution8. The Nineteenth Century9. Historical Conclusions10. The Philosophical Foundations of Parliamentary Sovereignty

Editorial Reviews

`Review from previous edition Goldsworthy's use of secondary sources and his scholarship are admirable. The style may be elusive, but it is nonetheless very readable and his arguments in the chapter dedicated to the philosophical foundations of the doctrine are clearly written and accesible.'THES