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The English Constitution
Walter Bagehot's The English Constitution (1867) is the best account of the history and workings of the British political system ever written. As arguments raged in mid-Victorian Britain about giving the working man the vote, and democracies overseas were pitched into despotism and civil war, Bagehot took a long, cool look at the "dignified" and "efficient" elements which ...more
Paperback, 219 pages
Published May 1st 2009 by Oxford University Press, USA
(first published 1867)
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Walter Bagehot (1826 - 1877) first wrote The English Constitution in a series of articles to the Fortnightly Review between May 1865 and January 1867. It was a turbulent period in British politics: the great barrier to reform, the Prime Minister Lord Palmerston, died in October 1865, and thus opened the way for a realistic chance of enfranchising the working class. The Liberal MP W. E. Gladstone's somewhat modest Reform Bill failed to pass Parliament in 1866, and the Reform League's mass meeting ...more
Bagehot was a terribly conservative editor of The Economist about the time of the American Civil War. He did not believe in universal suffrage: "In theory, it is desirable that this highest class (rich, educated & 'cultivated') of wealth and leisure should have an influence far out of proportion to its mere number ..." He was a snob who believed whole-heartedly in an hereditary Monarchy: "Constitutional royalty ... acts as a disguise. It enables our real rulers to change without heedless peo ...more
A study of the English constitution from more than a century ago, yet is still a pertinent and interesting book today. The book is divided into essays on sections of the constitution and the government that it defines. The journalistic nature of the writing along with its high quality combine to make this a pleasant read. The political analysis is sharp and the opinions are timeless.
Much better than a dull textbook. This book reads like the Economist would, if the Economist was to describe the workings of the English Constitution. Just as well, as the author was the editor of that esteemed magazine. Obviously out of date (by at least 100 years) but it makes up for in readability what it lacks in precision.
Walter Bagehot was a British businessman, essayist, and journalist who wrote extensively about literature, government, and economic affairs.More about Walter Bagehot...