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The Rule of Law

4.17  ·  Rating details ·  1,874 ratings  ·  125 reviews
The Rule of Law is a phrase much used but little examined. The idea of the rule of law as the foundation of modern states and civilisations has recently become even more talismanic than that of democracy, but what does it actually consist of? In this brilliant short book, Britain’s former senior law lord, and one of the world’s most acute legal minds, examines what the ide ...more
Paperback, 224 pages
Published February 24th 2011 by Penguin Books Ltd (first published February 4th 2010)
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Jun 26, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: politics, law
One of the things I liked about Britain's being in the EU was having an extra layer of legal appeal that lay above the level of the nation-state. This is of course exactly what many anti-Europe campaigners hate most, but from my experience of Europe these myriad rulings about flammable duvets and transporting hazardous substances, all hashed out quietly by experts far away from the media pressure of any particular country, were generally sensible and politically unpartisan.

When (dare I say if) t
Paul Bryant
Dec 28, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: politics
The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers

- Dick, a rebel, in Henry the 6th Part Two by William Shakespeare


When I read this sentence:

If you maltreat a penguin in the London Zoo, you do not escape prosecution because you are the Archbishop of Canterbury.

I conceived that Baron (call me Tom) Bingham of Cornhill, former Master of the Rolls, Lord Chief Justice and a Senior Law Lord might be the ideal guide through the unclear conglomerations of legal definition and public conduct which lay ah
Maru Kun
I thought I was reading a worthy but dull book on jurisprudence. A few hours of tedium were surely ahead but I would emerge a better person, educated by one of the finest legal minds on important issues of legal philosophy.

And then I turned the page to Chapter 11: Terrorism and the Rule of Law and instead found myself reading a work of crude dystopian fantasy.

Innocent people on vacation are kidnapped by secret agents of a state that proclaims itself the defender of freedom, then rendered to dist
the late bingham writes so sensitively about the rule of law, that you really don't need to have ever studied the law to appreciate this book. very accessible and illuminating. ...more
Jan 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In May 2015, the British PM David Cameron famously said
For too long, we have been a passively tolerant society, saying to our citizens: as long as you obey the law, we will leave you alone.

He followed this up with the admonition than the government must "bring the country together" by "actively promoting certain values. Freedom of speech. Freedom of worship. Democracy. The rule of law. Equal rights regardless of race, gender or sexuality." Note that nationality and religion are conspicuously abs
The only nonfiction I have knowingly preordered in hardback.
Jan 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favourites
Tom Bingham, one of the most experienced Law Lords in the UK, died in 2010 six months after the publication of this book. He felt the term ‘The Rule of Law’ was bandied about by many people who seemed unsure of what it actually meant. Arguing that this concept is at the very heart of national and individual liberty and security, he set out the key principles – the ingredients if you will – of this most exquisite expression of human decency.

After a sweep of history that goes from Magna Carta (121
Feb 14, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
There are countries in the world where all judicial decisions find favour with the powers that be, but they are probably not places where any of us would wish to live.

I was lucky enough to attend an evening of discussion, question an answers with Lord Bingham a couple of years ago. It was the first time I had heard him speak (before I had begun my legal studies), but I still found myself fascinated by what he had to say. Two years later, with some in-depth reading of his recent judgments under m
Dante Chambers
May 29, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Picked up this gem of a book today and began to skim. Skimming turned to deep reading, which turned to page-turning fixation. That says a lot for a book mainly concerned with jurisprudence.

It's not so much the subject matter that makes this book great, it is the clarity of presentation coupled with penetrating international analysis. As an American, I can use a bias-check every now and then, and Bingham provides it with erudition and wit.

We often hear of "The Rule of Law" here in the states, b
Mar 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
This book confirmed that I want to study Law at university.

It is highly accessible and readable, and is applicable to almost all legal systems worldwide, though with a particular emphasis on the English legal system. I highly recommend it for everyone.

"The rule of law" is a phrase often used, but not many people know what it means, its significance and its historical context. This book - or rather an essay, more like - explains it in very simple terms. It will change the way you think and approa
May 22, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
This book begins:

"In 2006 I was asked to give the sixth Sir David Williams Lecture at the University of Cambridge. This is an annual lecture established in honour (not, happily, in memory) of a greatly respected legal scholar, leader and college head in that university. The organizers generously offered me a free choice of subject. . . .

"I chose as my subject 'The Rule of Law'. I did so because the expression was constantly on people's lips, I was not quite sure what it meant, and I was not sur
Ella Chan
Dec 28, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Rule of Law is one of the fundamental principles of a democratic society and the foundation of a civilized society. In this short concise book, Tom Bingham first examines the historical origins of the rule -- such as the Magna Carta 1215, Habeas corpus, Petition of Right 1628, Sir Matthew Hale's resolutions and the Universal Declaration of Human RIghts. He then advances eight Rule of law understood in western democracies today.

Tom Bingham goes into the specifics of any rule, stating the limi
Saurabh Pandey
This book was suggested to me by my senior who wanted me to read about the working of Legal Principles in the UK and USA. This book contains various legal principles with the case laws and thorough explanations with it.
This book is a must-read for anyone who wants to learn new cases which had landmark implications in the legal system of both the USA & UK.
Ashu Pachauri
Aug 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Everyone's heard the term 'Rule of Law', but very few people really understand what it stands for.
In a time when every person has their own hardcore notions of how the society should operate, this books serves as a beautiful reminder of the fact that the Rule of Law forms the most important foundation of a smoothly functioning society. The law emanates from the people, not from the whims of political parties, businesses or religious organizations, thus insuring people's liberties and fair trial.
Lazarus P Badpenny Esq
Acts as an excellent primer on the relationship between human rights and the law.
Scott Wilson
Apr 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Tremendous exposition on the development of the rule of law over the rule of man. I highly recommend this book!
May 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Humbling. Beautifully written, as you would expect from one of the finest legal minds this country has known.
Jun 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I wish The Rule of Law by Bingham was written by an Arab judge for the Arab World and read carefully by all Arabs but this book is universal
Guan Jie
The phrase Rule of Law is overused especially if different people have different definitions for it. It's a bit like saying hooray for your own side. When your side wins, you say the Rule of Law has been upheld. When your side loses, you say the Rule of Law has been weakened. Despite that, there are some common beliefs when you bring up the Rule of Law. They include but are not limited to:

1. The law is applied on everyone, Prime Minister or not.
But there are exceptions. Children for example.
Enlightening. Anyone attempting to understand what really drives fairness & justice in society ought to read this.

Highly recommended.
Jul 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A great read for beginners! Interesting book about Rule of Law for lawyers and non - lawyers.
Rose Stanley
May 09, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Yeah yeah I am the kind of nerd who enjoys reading books on law in my spare time but this is a really interesting and accessible-to-laypersons explanation of the rule of law and its history (focusing on the UK and the US). Honestly this should have been required reading for EVERYONE in the run-up to the UK referendum on EU membership; it does a great job of explaining things like Parliamentary sovereignty, human rights law, separation of powers, etc. etc.

Worth reading for the chapter on terrori
Jan 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
Firstly, a 4 star is not a denial of the quality of the book but a personal judgement on the overall reading experience. This is the first book after 'A letter to law student' that I read on the subject of Law. As recommended in the Cambridge reading list, I really really appreciate the knowledge that this book had given me. It taught me from scratch the importance of the rule of law to create a civilised society in which fundamental human rights are protected. The distinguishment between a good ...more
Neil Powell
Jun 08, 2011 rated it really liked it
A wonderful introduction to the fundamentals of law. Written in a way that allows a layman or beginner (I am both when it comes to law) to understand the basic principles that have shaped the law and how it has evolved into the complex and wonderful beast it is today

These basics which we take for granted in this country, like the right to a fair trial seem to be common sense, but as the book demonstrates, recently even these basics "rules of law" have come under attack in the guise of counter-te
Jan 20, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 3, non-fiction
A book full of facts that are cleary written with opinions from one of England's top judges this book was an inspiring read which covered one of my favourite topics, the magna carta. All in all a great book only down side is that after a while I lost my motivation to read it and therefore, skimmed the last couple of pages. I would recommend this to anyone who is interested in learning more about the rule of law. ...more
Mar 22, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
So, so excellent!!! Pretty uncompromising about how the UK is doing in upholding rule of law values as well as making a great case for what the concept should include. The third part was quite weighted to UK/USA comparison but that was actually more helpful than not. And the section on parliamentary sovereignty got a grasp of the balance of what was desirable and why its not working right now. So good!!
Leonard Dabydeen
If you think playing it by the rules is all that matters, then you should read Bingham's "The Rule of Law". It will change the way you think about the rules...asking yourself : What is Law ? A must read for lawyers and paralegals.Or anyone else who thinks law for Dummies helps them to live a better life. ...more
Jul 22, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: law
A very British take on the rule of law, but nonetheless a great book written by the former Law Lord and advocate of the rule of the law. It shows why civilization needs laws, and how this principle matters and works as a cornerstone of a stable society. Certainly a worthwhile read, not only for lawyers and politicians.
Feb 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is quite simply the most accessible and clearly written book on the law, and how it is applied to modern Britain. The sections on human rights law and response to terrorism in the post 2001 word are particularly apposite and essential reading

The reader would be hard pressed not to leap to the defence of a hard won system of justice based on Bingham's work.
Sep 03, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very good guide to what is meant by the often used but rarely explained phrase, 'rule of law'. Particularly enjoyed the section on terrorism and the rule of law - an excellent, well reasoned discourse on a highly emotive topic. ...more
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“In a world divided by differences of nationality, race, colour, religion and wealth [the rule of law] is one of the greatest unifying factors, perhaps the greatest, the nearest we are likely to approach to a universal secular religion.” 8 likes
“There are doubtless those who would wish to lock up all those who suspected of terrorist and other serious offences and, in the time-honored phrase, throw away the key. But a suspect is by definition a person whom no offence has been proved. Suspicions, even if reasonably entertained, may prove to be misplaced, as a series of tragic miscarriages of justice has demonstrated. Police officers and security officials can be wrong. It is a gross injustice to deprive of his liberty for significant periods a person who has committed no crime and does not intend to do so. No civilized country should willingly tolerate such injustices.” 6 likes
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