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School of Law

Comparative Constitutional Law

Course Code:
15PLAH046
Unit value:
0.5
Taught in:
Term 1

This course introduces students to the rich diversity of constitutional law in the world today, aiming at a better understanding of the working of constitutions and of the work constitutions do in different political, socio-economic settings and historical periods. 

What constitutions are, what makes constitutions different, how constitutional ideas migrate, as well as the larger global processes which structure constitutional law in each country are the key themes of this course. 

As a starting point, students will study the conceptual and theoretical foundations of constitutional law from a comparative perspective. By explicating the basic elements of constitutional theory across time and space, the course seeks to expose the distinctive methods and tasks of comparative constitutional law. 

The course simultaneously deals with specific thematic issues and locates the theoretical debates in their practical setting. Students thus also encounter a micro-perspective, testing the structures of comparative constitutional law in the context of constitutional particularities, in particular constitutional courts. 

All dimensions of the course – theoretical, methodological, and case studies – are always concerned with the ways in which ‘similar’ topics of constitutional law are understood, negotiated, and produced differently by different actors in and around different constitutional systems.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the course

The aims of this course are:

  1. to introduce students to the methods and purposes of comparative public law;
  2. to provide knowledge of the nature of constitutions of a variety of countries and the ways in which, through the medium of law, the powers of government are allocated differently amongst the various institutions of different states;
  3. to explain how, through the agency of judges, governmental decision-making is rendered subject to law, and how constitutional judicial review varies across time and space;
  4. to inculcate analytical and research skills;
  5. to encourage reflection on the role of constitutional law in regulating the exercise of public power in contemporary society.

Scope and syllabus

Topics are likely to include:

  1. Constitutional Ethnography
  2. Comparative Constitutional Theory: Constituent Power
  3. Quantitative Methods in Comparative Constitutional Law: Constitutional Endurance
  4. Constitution Making Processes
  5. Constitutional Amendment Rules
  6. Constitutional Continuity and Crisis: Emergency Powers
  7. Constitutional Judicial Review: From Marbury to Kesavananda
  8. Rights Revolutions
  9. Juristocracies
  10. Constitutional Judges and Judicial Biographies

Method of assessment

Assessment weighting: 100% coursework - one 6000 word essay (100%). Coursework is resubmissable.