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The Sovereignty of Parliament: History and Philosophy Jeffrey Goldsworthy Oxford University Press USA


25th May 2013 History Books 1 Comment

`A powerful defence of the idea of parliamentary sovereignty … Goldsworthy is able to inflict serious damage on the arguments advanced by recent critics of parliamentary sovereignty.’ History of Political Thought

`an immensely learned book, old-fashioned legal scholarship at its best but with obvious contemporary relevance.’ (2000) 71 Political Quarterly 260

`timely evaluation of the doctrine of parliamentary sovereignty Goldsworthy has produced a stimulating and thoughtful book that ought to be required reading for both the judiciary and those infatuated with the prospect of rationalising and remodelling constitutions.’ Australian Journal of Political Science (2001) Vol. 36

`a learned and readable book on one of the great topics in legal history and present-day political debate. … his erudite and detailed survey will, for many years to come, be the starting point for serious research on this subject.’ Ius Commune 2001

`The opening chapters review a considerable breadth of historical material … and the final chapter is a significant contribution to the discussion of the siurce of the ultimate authority in law.’ Edwin Simpson, Law Quarterly Review

`immensely valuable, interesting and completely convincing. Professor Goldsworthy approaches his topic with obvious fairness and writes with clarity and understanding.’ Christopher Forsyth, The Cambridge Law Journal 2000

`Goldsworthy provides a valuable analysis of the political theories of the time, discussing Parliament’s authority from the perspective of royalist theories and common law theories.’ Hilaire Barnett, Public Law 2000

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

In British constitutional law, the doctrine of parliamentary sovereignty maintains that Parliament has unlimited legislative authority. Critics have recently challenged this doctrine, on historical and philosophical grounds. This book describes its historical origins and development and identifies the reasons why it was adopted, examines its current legal basis, and responds to the critics.

`A powerful defence of the idea of parliamentary sovereignty … Goldsworthy is able to inflict serious damage on the arguments advanced by recent critics of parliamentary sovereignty.’ History of Political Thought

`an immensely learned book, old-fashioned legal scholarship at its best but with obvious contemporary relevance.’ 71 Political Quarterly 260

`timely evaluation of the doctrine of parliamentary sovereignty Goldsworthy has produced a stimulating and thoughtful book that ought to be required reading for both the judiciary and those infatuated with the prospect of rationalising and remodelling constitutions.’ Australian Journal of Political Science Vol. 36

`a learned and readable book on one of the great topics in legal history and present-day political debate. … his erudite and detailed survey will, for many years to come, be the starting point for serious research on this subject.’ Ius Commune 2001

`The opening chapters review a considerable breadth of historical material … and the final chapter is a significant contribution to the discussion of the siurce of the ultimate authority in law.’ Edwin Simpson, Law Quarterly Review

`immensely valuable, interesting and completely convincing. Professor Goldsworthy approaches his topic with obvious fairness and writes with clarity and understanding.’ Christopher Forsyth, The Cambridge Law Journal 2000

`Goldsworthy provides a valuable analysis of the political theories of the time, discussing Parliament’s authority from the perspective of royalist theories and common law theories.’ Hilaire Barnett, Public Law 2000

The Sovereignty of Parliament: History and Philosophy

Parliamentary Sovereignty: Contemporary Debates

‘Professor Goldsworthy’s thoughts on sovereignty are always challenging and important, often combative, and rarely easy to dismiss. It is extremely useful for those interested in the area to have his views in one volume … There is a great deal to be admired in Parliamentary Sovereignty … [which] is another important contribution by Professor Goldsworthy to a topic which is returning to the front line of constitutional debate … Goldsworthy is deservedly one of the most well known of those representing a coherent, historical and democracy-based argument for parliamentary sovereignty in its classical form. His new book is an important contribution to an important contemporary debate. It presents a real and continuing challenge to the idea that common law constitutionalism is the new orthodoxy, and for that both supporters and opponents should be grateful.’ C. J. S. Knight, Law Quarterly Review

This book has four main themes: a criticism of ‘common law constitutionalism’, the theory that Parliament’s authority is conferred by, and therefore is or can be made subordinate to, judge-made common law; an analysis of Parliament’s ability to abdicate, limit or regulate the exercise of its own authority, including a revision of Dicey’s conception of sovereignty, a repudiation of the doctrine of implied repeal and the proposal of a novel theory of ‘manner and form’ requirements for law-making; an examination of the relationship between parliamentary sovereignty and statutory interpretation, defending the reality of legislative intentions, and their indispensability to sensible interpretation and respect for parliamentary sovereignty; and an assessment of the compatibility of parliamentary sovereignty with recent constitutional developments, including the expansion of judicial review of administrative action, the Human Rights and European Communities Acts and the growing recognition of ‘constitutional principles’ and ‘constitutional statutes’.

Parliamentary Sovereignty: Contemporary Debates (Cambridge Studies in Constitutional Law)










  • One response to "The Sovereignty of Parliament: History and Philosophy Jeffrey Goldsworthy Oxford University Press USA"

  • dasein
    4:15 on May 27th, 2013
    Reply to comment

    The discussion about the possibility of British judges invalidate statutes is surrounded by a vast complexity of questions. According the theory of its sovereignty, the British Parliament has unlimited legislative power, despite the fact that it also happens because of the legal flexibility of the unwritten Constitution. Written by Professor Goldsworthy, “The sovereignty of Parliament” is an outstanding book about this extremely important doctrine. Here, Goldsworthy has contested many recent critics about the doctrine of the parliamentary sovereignty, which have claimed that it is a recent invention of academic lawyers and, furthermore, that it is based in a misunderstanding about the real nature of the British Constitution. Then, the author magnifically pointed out that this doctrine, as a matter of fact, has been present in the English constitutionalism since the thirteenth century. Discussing many legal and political thinkers, including Fortescue, Locke, Hobbes and Blackstone, he has empirically proved that British judges have never had authority to invalidate statutes, and, what is more, that this doctrine of the parliamentary sovereignty is much older than usually imagined. To conclude, Goldsworthy observes that the traditional English concept of the sovereignty of Parliament is morally defensible, as well as the judicial review is not essential for the protection of human rights and democracy, even though judicial control of the legal constitutionality could improve the protection of human rights and democracy.

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