Constitutions in transition
Constitutions in transition

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Constitutions in transition

5.1 An untidier constitution?

In Section 4, Canada was characterised as an ‘untidy’ constitution. The same case can be made about the UK constitution, which is wholly ‘uncodified’. There is not one place where you will find ‘the constitution’.

Instead, the constitution is made up of several parliamentary enactments, constitutional ‘conventions’, significant judicial decisions, and an extensive history through which several principles, which now form the ‘pillars’ of the constitution, have emerged.

Described image
Figure 18 The UK constitution at a glance

This section will consider how the history of the UK has led to the development of these four ‘pillars’ − the concepts of parliamentary sovereignty, the rule of law, the separation of powers and prerogative powers.

Activity 10 The constitutional history of the UK

Timing: You should allow yourself 20 minutes to do this activity.

View the interactive map and click on the UK. Explore the history of the UK by selecting each of the buttons underneath the map of the UK.

To access the map, click on it or press the ‘View’ button located underneath it to the right. To return to the main course from within the map page, scroll down and click on the back arrow and section title. It is recommended that you open the map in a new window or tab.


The UK constitution, unwritten as it is, has taken several hundred years – at least, many would argue over a millennium – to take the shape it does today. The constitution is still evolving today, and appreciating this in light of the length of time it sometimes takes to effect change is important. How the constitution has developed into what we recognise today will be developed in more detail throughout this section of the course.


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