An Introduction to the Administrative History of Mediaeval England

An Introduction to the Administrative History of Mediaeval England

An Introduction to the Administrative History of Mediaeval England

An Introduction to the Administrative History of Mediaeval England

Excerpt

Some years of experience in the academic teaching of English Constitutional History have suggested to me that undergraduate (not to mention more senior) students are confronted with considerable difficulty in grasping the significance and relevance for English history in general, and for the history of the Constitution in particular, of what is commonly called Administrative History. It is perhaps not too much to say that no general study of English Constitutional History at present exists which adequately incorporates and interprets the history of administration; and no broad survey of Administrative History has hitherto been attempted.

The traditional emphasis upon the political, legal, and above all the parliamentary aspects of constitutional development has tended to obscure what after all has always been the most fundamental constitutional problem, namely, the limitation and control and definition of executive power. The nature of this problem in any given period cannot be understood without consideration of the nature of the executive itself, its organization and methods. The principle of the rule of law, and the growth of the common law, the development of the legislative, fiscal, and political functions and powers of parliamentary assemblies, vital themes though they are, were the expression rather than the essence of constitutional development in England. For the judiciary and the courts of common law and parliaments never have been, and are not, the government itself; on the contrary, all of them were created by the action or acquiescence of governments. The general power of government which we call executive power resides elsewhere--in the Crown and Ministers of the Crown and their agents and servants, and has always resided there, except in times of revolution--indeed the usurpation of executive power by others is what 'revolution' means. The essence of constitutional history in England has consequently always consisted in attempts of persons or groups other than the king's servants to influence, limit, restrict, or to control in some . . .

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