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THE ANCIENT CONSTITUTION AND THE LANGUAGES OF POLITICAL THOUGHT

  • MARK GOLDIE (a1)

Abstract

Historians of political thought speak of ‘languages’ of politics. A language provides a lexicon, an available resource for legitimating positions. It is looser than a ‘theory’, because protean, and not predictive of particular doctrines. Some languages attract considerable scholarly attention, while others languish, for all that they were ambient in past cultures. In recent scholarship on early modern European thought, natural law and civic humanism have dominated. Yet prescriptive appeals to national historiographies were equally pervasive. Many European cultures appealed to Tacitean mythologies of a Gothic ur-constitution. The Anglophone variant dwelt on putative Saxon freedoms, the status of the Norman ‘Conquest’, whether feudalism ruptured the Gothic inheritance, and how common law related to ‘reason’, natural law, and divine law. Whigs rooted parliaments in the Saxon witenagemot; though, by the eighteenth century, ‘modern’ Whigs discerned liberty as the fruit of recent socio-economic change. Levellers and Chartists alike talked of liberation from the ‘Norman Yoke’. These themes were explored from the 1940s onwards under the stimulus of Herbert Butterfield; one result was J. G. A. Pocock's classic Ancient constitution and the feudal law (1957).

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Footnotes

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For commenting on a draft of this essay, I am most grateful to Annabel Brett, Laura Donohue, Clare Jackson, and Dmitri Levitin.

Footnotes

References

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1 The opening section of this essay is indebted to Pocock, J. G. A., Politics, language, and time (London, 1972), and idem, Political thought and history (Cambridge, 2009). Also Skinner, Quentin, Visions of politics (3 vols., Cambridge, 2002), i.

2 The writings of William Lamont, especially Godly rule (London, 1969), were premonitory, as was Pocock's ‘Time, history, and eschatology’, in Politics, language, and time. See Chapman, Alister, Coffey, John, and Gregory, Brad, eds., Seeing things their way: intellectual history and the return of religion (Notre Dame, IN, 2009); Nelson, Eric, The Hebrew republic: Jewish sources and the transformation of political thought (Cambridge, MA, 2011); and John Robertson, The sacred and the social: history and political thought, 1650–1800 (forthcoming).

3 For example, Winch, Donald, Adam Smith's politics (Cambridge, 1978); Hont, Istvan, Jealousy of trade (Cambridge, MA, 2005).

4 Pocock, J. G. A., The ancient constitution and the feudal law (Cambridge, 1957; 2nd edn, with lengthy Retrospect, 1987). See also idem, Virtue, commerce, and history (Cambridge, 1985). Themes in the present essay are rehearsed in Skinner, Quentin, ‘History and ideology in the English Revolution’, Historical Journal, 8 (1965), pp. 151–78; repr. in Visions of politics, iii; and Sommerville, J. P., ‘The ancient constitution reassessed: the common law, the court, and the languages of politics in early modern England’, in Smuts, R. Malcolm, ed., The Stuart court and Europe (Cambridge, 1996). For key studies, prior and subsequent to Pocock, see Kliger, Samuel, The Goths in England (New York, NY, 1952); MacDougall, H. A., Racial myth in English history: Trojans, Teutons, and Anglo-Saxons (Montreal, QC, 1982); Postema, Gerald, Bentham and the common law tradition (Oxford, 1986, 2004); Sommerville, J. P., Politics and ideology in England, 1603–1640 (Harlow, 1986); Burgess, Glenn, The politics of the ancient constitution (Basingstoke, 1992); Kidd, Colin, British identities before nationalism (Cambridge, 1999); and, with a broader brush, Groom, Nick, The Gothic: a very short introduction (Oxford, 2012).

5 Bentley, Michael, The life and thought of Herbert Butterfield (Cambridge, 2011), pp. 168–70; McIntire, C. T., Herbert Butterfield: historian as dissenter (New Haven, CT, 2004), pp. 115–26.

6 Forbes, Duncan, The liberal Anglican idea of history (Cambridge, 1952); Burrow, John, A liberal descent: Victorian historians and the English past (Cambridge, 1981).

7 Quoted in Pocock, Ancient constitution, pp. 32–3.

8 Interest in Bodin is currently resurgent, and complicates the conventional picture of Bodin as a theorist of royal absolutism. See Lee, Daniel, Popular sovereignty in early modern constitutional thought (Oxford, 2016); Lloyd, H. A., ed., The reception of Bodin (Leiden, 2013); Lloyd, H. A., Jean Bodin: ‘this pre-eminent man of France’: an intellectual biography (Oxford, 2017).

9 Sir Edward Coke and Thomas Wentworth, quoted in Lee, Popular sovereignty, p. 64 (and see ch. 9 passim); Gough, J. W., Fundamental law in English constitutional history (Oxford, 1955), p. 64.

10 Baker, J. H., The reinvention of Magna Carta, 1216–1616 (Cambridge, 2017).

11 Sir Fortescue, John, Of the laws and government of England, ed. Lockwood, Shelley (Cambridge, 1997).

12 For Coke, see White, S. D., Sir Edward Coke and the grievances of the commonwealth (Manchester, 1979); Smith, David, Sir Edward Coke and the reformation of the laws (Cambridge, 2014). For the Mirror and the Modus, see Galbraith, V. H., ‘The Modus tendendi parliamentum’, Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institute, 16 (1953), pp. 8199; Pronay, Nicholas and Taylor, John, eds., Parliamentary texts of the later middle ages (Oxford, 1980); Seipp, D. J., ‘The Mirror of Justices’, in Bush, J. A. and Wijffels, A., eds., Learning the law (London, 1999); Greenberg, Janelle, The radical face of the ancient constitution (Cambridge, 2001). The Cokeans overlooked Bracton's deference to the kingly source of law.

13 Cokean common law was apparently not Pocock's starting point. In 1948, Butterfield reported that he was about to acquire a graduate student who will be ‘studying the history of the idea of primitive Teutonic freedom – the idea of Anglo-Saxon democracy – in English historiography’: Bentley, Butterfield, p. 299. For Pocock's tendency to see Coke as premonitory of the Whigs, see Klein, William, ‘The ancient constitution revisited’, in Philippson, Nicholas and Skinner, Quentin, eds., Political discourse in early modern Britain (Cambridge, 1993).

14 Brackmann, Rebecca, The Elizabethan invention of Anglo-Saxon England (Cambridge, 2012), ch. 7, quotation at p. 201.

15 Levy, F. J., Tudor historical thought (San Marino, CA, 1967); Ferguson, A. B., Clio unbound (Durham, NC, 1979); Sharpe, Kevin, Sir Robert Cotton, 1586–1631: history and politics in early modern England (Oxford, 1979); Helgerson, Richard, Forms of nationhood: the Elizabethan writing of England (Chicago, IL, 1992), ch. 3.

16 Williams, Kelsey J., The antiquary: John Aubrey's historical scholarship (Oxford, 2016).

17 Bk 2, ch. 6.

18 The book mattered enough to the Nazis that, in the midst of the Second World War, they tried to seize a manuscript. See Schama, Simon, Landscape and memory (London, 1995), ch. 2; Krebs, Christopher, A most dangerous book: Tacitus's Germania from the Roman Empire to the Third Reich (New York, NY, 2011). For surveys, see Luce, T. J. and Woodman, A. J., eds., Tacitus and the Tacitean tradition (Princeton, NJ, 1993); Kidd, Colin, ‘Northern antiquity: the ethnology of liberty in eighteenth-century Europe’, in Haakonssen, Knud and Horstbøll, Henrik, eds., Northern antiquities and national identities (Copenhagen, 2008).

19 Schama, Landscape, ch. 3: ‘The liberties of the greenwood’. For a recent (Brexiteer?) deployment, see Paul Kingsnorth's novel, The wake (2014). For another survival, explore online the rituals surrounding the Isle of Man's Tynwald, the ‘oldest parliament in the world’.

20 Burrow, Liberal descent, p. 189.

21 On Selden: Tuck, Richard, ‘“The ancient law of freedom”: John Selden and the Civil War’, in Morrill, John, ed., Reactions to the English Civil War, 1642–1649 (London, 1982); Christianson, Paul, ‘Young John Selden and the ancient constitution, 1610–1618’, Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, 128 (1984), 271315; idem, Discourse on history, law, and governance in the public career of John Selden, 1610–1635 (Toronto, ON, 1996); Toomer, G. J., John Selden: a life in scholarship (2 vols., Oxford, 2009).

22 Skinner, ‘History and ideology’; Sommerville, J. P., ‘History and theory: the Norman Conquest in early Stuart political thought’, Political Studies, 34 (1986), pp. 249–61.

23 Pocock, J. G. A., ‘Robert Brady, 1627–1700: a Cambridge historian of the Restoration’, Cambridge Historical Journal, 10 (1951), pp. 186204; idem, Ancient constitution, ch. 8.

24 Pocock remarked that the Filmer debate taught him the ‘plurality of [political] languages’: Political thought and history, p. xi.

25 Scott, Jonathan, Algernon Sidney and the Restoration crisis, 1677–1683 (Cambridge, 1991).

26 Rudolph, Julia, Revolution by degrees: James Tyrrell and Whig political thought (Basingstoke, 2002).

27 The classic account is Hill, Christopher, ‘The Norman Yoke’, in Puritanism and revolution (London, 1958).

28 Coningsby (1844), Sybil (1845), Tancred (1847).

29 See Thompson, Martyn, ‘Significant silences in Locke's Two treatises of government’, Historical Journal, 31 (1987), pp. 275–94; Coniff, J., ‘Reason and history in early Whig thought’, Journal of the History of Ideas, 43 (1982), pp. 397416.

30 Locke, John, Political essays, ed. Goldie, Mark (Cambridge, 1997), pp. 351–2; idem, Some thoughts concerning education, ed. John, and Yolton, Jean (Oxford, 1989), pp. 239–40.

31 Weston, Corinne Comstock, ‘Legal sovereignty in the Brady controversy’, Historical Journal, 15 (1972), pp. 409–31.

32 Smith, R. J., The Gothic bequest: medieval institutions in British thought, 1688–1863 (Cambridge, 1987); Earl, D. W., ‘Procrustean feudalism: an interpretative dilemma in English historical narration, 1700–1725’, Historical Journal, 19 (1976), pp. 3351.

33 Bolingbroke, Lord, Historical writings, ed. Kramnick, Isaac (Chicago, IL, 1972), p. 178.

34 Smith, Gothic Bequest, pp. 28–38.

35 Gaskill, Howard, ed., The reception of Ossian in Europe (London, 2004).

36 Keynes, Simon, ‘The cult of King Alfred the Great’, Anglo-Saxon England, 28 (1999), pp. 225356; Wilson, Kathleen, The island race: Englishness, empire, and gender in the eighteenth century (London, 2003), ch. 2 and Epilogue.

37 Connell, Philip, ‘British identities and the politics of ancient poetry in late eighteenth-century England’, Historical Journal, 49 (2006), pp. 161–92. For Irish dimensions, see O'Halloran, Clare, Golden ages and barbarous nations: antiquarian debate and cultural politics in Ireland, 1750–1800 (Cork, 2004); Smyth, Jim, ‘“Like amphibious animals”: Irish Protestants, ancient Britons, 1691–1707’, Historical Journal, 36 (1993), pp. 785–97; Kidd, British identities, ch. 7. For the Romantics, see Simmons, Clare, Reversing the Conquest: history and myth in nineteenth-century British literature (New Brunswick, NB, 1990).

38 Forbes, Duncan, Hume's philosophical politics (Cambridge, 1975), ch. 8; Harris, James, Hume: an intellectual biography (Cambridge, 2015), chs. 7–8; Wei, Jai, Commerce and politics in Hume's History of England (Woodbridge, 2017).

39 The Craftsman, 8 (1737), Dedication.

40 Daily Gazette, 23 Aug. 1736. See Kramnick, I., ‘Augustan politics and English historiography: the debate on the English past, 1730–1735’, History and Theory, 6 (1967), pp. 3356.

41 Peter Stein, Legal evolution: the story of an idea (Cambridge, 1980).

42 Blackstone, Sir William, Commentaries on the laws of England (4 vols., Oxford, 2016), i, pp. 160–2.

43 This case was put by Behrens, Catherine: ‘The Whig theory of the constitution in the reign of Charles II’, Cambridge Historical Journal, 7 (1941), pp. 4271. Behrens belonged to a remarkable cohort of interwar Cambridge women historians. Her correspondence with Butterfield is among her papers in the Churchill Archives Centre.

44 Charles McIlwain argued that the common lawyers held that constitutional fundamental law’ could trump ordinary law: The high court of parliament (New Haven, CT, 1910). But, while ‘fundamental law’ was a common phrase, it is doubtful any common lawyer denied the supremacy of statute.

45 Thompson, Faith, Magna Carta (Minneapolis, MN, 1948); Holt, J. C., Magna Carta (Cambridge, 1965, 2015) (quoting Coke, p. 3).

46 Ironically, Lord Ellesmere complained that Coke's zealous printing of reports froze the law in time and text, and gave fixity and personal authority to what ought to be a protean, anonymous flow of a collectively generated understanding of the law. See Ross, R., ‘The commoning of the common law: the Renaissance debate over the printing of English law’, University of Pennsylvania Law Review, 146 (1998), p. 437.

47 Hobbes, , A dialogue of the common laws, ed. Skinner, Quentin and Cromartie, Alan (Oxford, 2005), pp. 22, 116. See also John Vaughan's strictures (‘the common law cannot be conceived to be law otherwise than by acts of parliament’): Tuck, Richard, Natural rights theories (Cambridge, 1979), p. 135.

48 Bentham, A fragment on government (1776); Austin, The province of jurisprudence determined (1832). See Postema, Bentham; Lobban, Michael, The common law and English jurisprudence, 1760–1850 (Oxford, 1991).

49 Curiously, Hale's ‘Reflections’ is still only available as an appendix in William Holdsworth, History of English law (17 vols., London, 1922–65), v, pp. 499–513. See Yale, D. E. C., ‘Hale and Hobbes on law, legislation, and the sovereign’, Cambridge Law Journal, 3 (1972), pp. 121–56; Cromartie, Alan, Sir Matthew Hale, 1609–1676 (Cambridge, 1995), ch. 7 (quotation at pp. 102–6); Postema, Bentham, ch. 1.

50 McIlwain, The high court of parliament. His reading has, however, long been resisted, from Holdsworth to Geoffrey Elton.

51 Willman, Robert, ‘Blackstone and the “theoretical perfection” of English law in the reign of Charles II’, Historical Journal, 26 (1983), pp. 3970.

52 Blackstone, Commentaries, iii, pp. 267–8.

53 Lieberman, David, The province of jurisprudence determined: legal theory in eighteenth-century England (Cambridge, 1989), chs. 1–2; Lobban, Common law and English jurisprudence, ch. 2; Prest, Wilfrid, Blackstone and his Commentaries: biography, law, history (Oxford, 2009).

54 Lieberman, Province of jurisprudence, passim, quotation at p. 127.

55 Rudolph, Julia, Common law and Enlightenment in England, 1689–1750 (Woodbridge, 2013).

56 Pocock, Politics, language, and time, p. 237. See Tubbs, J. W., The common law mind (Baltimore, MD, 2000), chs. 6–8; George Garnett, ‘Why good lawyers are such bad historians: the case of Sir Edward Coke’, Lecture, Inner Temple, 2015: www.innertemple.org.uk/downloads/education/lectures/2015/lecture_garnett.pdf.

57 See Cromartie, Alan, ‘The idea of common law as custom’, in Perreau-Saussine, Amanda and Murphy, James, eds., The nature of customary law (Cambridge, 2007).

58 The phrase is Postema's: Bentham, p. 15.

59 For philosophical accounts of custom see Perreau-Saussine and Murphy, eds., The nature of customary law; Murphy, James, The philosophy of customary law (Oxford, 2014).

60 Bourke, Richard, Empire and revolution: the political life of Edmund Burke (Princeton, NJ, 2015), pp. 8592.

61 Pocock, J. G. A., ‘Burke and the ancient constitution: a problem in the history of ideas’, Historical Journal, 3 (1960), pp. 125–43; repr. in Politics, language, and time.

62 Speech to the House of Commons, 7 May 1782.

63 Kidd, Colin, ‘The grail of original meaning: uses of the past in American constitutional theory’, Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, 26 (2016), pp. 175–96 (quotation at p. 175).

64 Reid, John Phillip, The ancient constitution and the origins of Anglo-American liberty (De Kalb, IL, 2005). More soberly: Colbourn, Trevor, The lamp of experience: Whig history and the intellectual origins of the American Revolution (Chapel Hill, NC, 1965; reissued Indianapolis, IN, 1998); Howard, A. E. Dick, The road from Runnymede: Magna Carta and constitutionalism in America (Charlottesville, VA, 1968); Sandoz, Ellis, ed., The roots of liberty: Magna Carta, ancient constitution, and the Anglo-American tradition of rule of law (Columbia, MO, 1993). For an exploration of the Founders’ pervasive respect for Coke and Blackstone, see Donohue, Laura K., ‘The Original Fourth Amendment’, Chicago Law Review, 83 (2016), pp. 1181–328.

65 See especially Skinner, ‘History and ideology’.

66 There is a striking contrast between two historians often classed together: Pocock's writings cleave to Oakeshott, Skinner's do not. Pocock's essays in Politics, language, and time are arguably shadowed by the student revolt and its search for unconditioned freedom. For a recent Oakeshottian reading of Burke, see Norman, Jesse, MP, Edmund Burke (London, 2013).

67 Greenberg, Janelle, ‘The Confessor's laws and the radical face of the ancient constitution’, English Historical Review, 104 (1989), pp. 611–37; idem, The radical face of the ancient constitution: St Edward's laws in early modern political thought (Cambridge, 2001).

68 Pocock, Political thought and history, p. 171. See especially his essay ‘Time, institutions, and action’.

69 Maltzahn, Nicholas von, Milton's History of Britain: republican historiography in the English Revolution (Oxford, 1991); Martin Dzelzainis, ‘The ideological context of John Milton's History of Britain’ (Ph.D. thesis, Cambridge, 1984).

70 Owers, George, ‘Common law jurisprudence and ancient constitutionalism in the radical thought of John Cartwright, Granville Sharp, and Capel Lofft’, Historical Journal, 58 (2015), pp. 5173; idem, ‘The political thought of Major John Cartwright, 1774–1824’ (Ph.D. thesis, Cambridge, 2015); Hill, Bridget, Republican virago: Catherine Macaulay, historian (Oxford, 1992).

71 Murphy, Andrew R., ed., The political writings of William Penn (Indianapolis, IN, 2002), p. 28.

72 In Rudolph, Common law and Enlightenment, we learn that Saxons are ‘subalterns’ demonized by ‘the modernizing narrative’ (p. 266).

73 Glover, S. D., ‘The Putney debates: popular versus elite republicanism’, Past and Present, 164 (1999), pp. 4780; idem, ‘The classical plebeians: radical republicanism and the origins of Leveller thought’ (Ph.D. thesis, Cambridge, 1994).

74 Seaberg, R. B., ‘The Norman Conquest and the common law: the Levellers and the argument from continuity’, Historical Journal, 24 (1981), pp. 791806; Foxley, Rachel, ‘John Lilburne and the citizenship of “free-born Englishmen”’, Historical Journal, 47 (2004), pp. 849–74; idem, The Levellers: radical political thought in the English Revolution (Manchester, 2013); Walsh, Ashley, ‘John Streater and the Saxon republic’, History of Political Thought, 39 (2018), pp. 5782.

75 Coquillette, Daniel, ‘Legal ideology and incorporation’, Boston University Law Review, 61 (1981), pp. 189, 315–71; 67 (1987), pp. 289–364; Stein, Peter, The character and influence of the Roman Civil Law (London, 1988); Sommerville, J. P., ‘James I and the divine right of kings: English political thought and continental theory’, in Peck, Linda Levy, ed., The mental world of the Jacobean court (Cambridge, 1991); Brooks, Christopher, Lawyers, litigation, and English society since 1450 (London, 1998), esp. pp. 224–7. For a common lawyer who leaned towards Cowell's politics, see Knafla, L. A., Law and politics in Jacobean England: the tracts of Lord Chancellor Ellesmere (Cambridge, 1977).

76 The point was debated in Brooks, Christopher, Sharpe, Kevin, and Kelley, D. R., ‘History, English law, and the Renaissance’, Past and Present, 65 (1974), pp. 2451; and 72 (1976), pp. 133–46. See also Helgerson, Forms of nationhood, ch. 2.

77 John Selden, The history of tithes (1618), p. 478.

78 Campbell, Ian, ‘Aristotelian ancient constitution and anti-Aristotelian sovereignty in Stuart Ireland’, Historical Journal, 53 (2010), pp. 573–91; Sommerville, ‘The ancient constitution reassessed’; Cromartie, Alan, The constitutionalist revolution: an essay on the history of England, 1450–1642 (Cambridge, 2006), ch. 7; Tubbs, Common law mind, chs. 6–9; Brooks, Christopher, Law, politics, and society in early modern England (Cambridge, 2008), ch. 4. The pre-eminent historian of English law, J. H. Baker, has judiciously examined the insularity/cosmopolitanism of the lawyers. He argues for a shift between c. 1500 and c. 1600 from ‘doctrine’ to ‘jurisprudence’, from Sir Thomas Littleton's analytic treatment, largely free of citation of cases, to Cokean reliance on cases: English law in the Renaissance’, in The legal profession and the common law (London, 1986). He connects this with the impact of print, because the printing of reports restricted the canon of legal citation and promoted a shift from appeals to reason to appeals to case law. See also Ross, ‘Commoning of the common law’.

79 Pawlisch, H. S., ‘Sir John Davies, the ancient constitution, and the Civil Law’, Historical Journal, 23 (1980), pp. 689702; Tubbs, Common law mind, ch. 6.

80 Davies, Sir John, Jus imponendi vectigana (London, 1659), p. 6.

81 Ludington, C. C., ‘From ancient constitution to British empire: William Atwood and the imperial crown of England’, in Ohlmeyer, J. H., ed., Political thought in seventeenth-century Ireland (Cambridge, 2000). For the export of Cokeanism, see Hulsebosch, D. J., ‘The ancient constitution and the expanding empire: Sir Edward Coke's jurisprudence’, Law and History Review, 21 (2003), pp. 439–82; Kidd, British identities, ch. 10.

82 Goldie, Mark, ‘Annual parliaments and aristocratic Whiggism’, in Spurr, John, ed., Anthony Ashley Cooper, first earl of Shaftesbury (Farnham, 2013).

83 Quoted in Pollard, David et al. , Constitutional and administrative law (Oxford, 2007), p. 51.

84 Williams, I., ‘The Tudor genesis of Edward Coke's immemorial common law’, Sixteenth-Century Journal, 43 (2012), pp. 103–23.

85 Raffield, Paul, Images and cultures of law in early modern England: justice and political power, 1558–1660 (Cambridge, 2004).

86 Franklin, Julian, ed., Constitutionalism and resistance in the sixteenth century (New York, NY, 1969), p. 239.

87 See Shackleton, Robert, Montesquieu (Oxford, 1951), pp. 328–36. On the importance of Hotman, see Pocock, Ancient constitution, ch. 1; Kelley, Donald R., Foundations of modern historical scholarship (New York, NY, 1970).

88 Christianson, Public career of John Selden, passim.

89 Hare, John, St Edward's Ghost (London, 1647), p. 3.

90 Feola, Vittoria, Elias Ashmole and the uses of antiquity (Paris, 2012), ch. 5.

91 Sidney, Algernon, Discourses concerning government, ed. West, Thomas (Indianapolis, IN, 1990), p. 105; Hotman is cited at pp. 291–3.

92 Colbourn, Lamp of experience, p. 155.

93 Molesworth, Robert, An account of Denmark, with Frangollia, ed. Champion, Justin (Indianapolis, IN, 2011), pp. 171–2. See also the Preface to Molesworth's Account of Denmark (1694).

94 But see Pocock, Ancient constitution, ch. 1; Campbell, ‘Aristotelian ancient constitution’; Kidd, British identities, ch. 9. For Anglo-Swedish interaction, see Poole, William and Williams, Kelsey Jackson, ‘A Swede in Restoration Oxford: Gothic patriots, Swedish books, English scholars’, Lias, 39 (2012), pp. 167.

95 Schöffer, Ivo, ‘The Batavian myth during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries’, in Bromley, J. S. and Kossmann, E. H., eds., Britain and the Netherlands, v (The Hague, 1975).

96 For the following, see Burrow, John, ‘The village community and the uses of history’, in McKendrick, Neil, ed., Historical perspectives (London, 1974).

97 von Maurer, Georg, Geschichte der Mark-, Hof-, Dorf-, und Stadverfassung und der öffentlichen Gewalt (History of the constitution of the mark, farmstead, village, and town, and of the public power) (Munich, 1854).

98 Green, John Richard, A short history of the English people (London, 1924 [1874]), pp. 34.

99 Quoted in Burrow, Liberal descent, p. 141.

100 Jones, Gareth Stedman, Karl Marx: greatness and illusion (London, 2016), pp. 568–86. The currently flourishing school of English social history sponsored by E. P. Thompson's classic essays on the ‘moral economy’, with its accent on the early modern capitalist erosion of ancient common rights of usufruct, is arguably a latter-day rehearsal of ancient constitutionalism.

For commenting on a draft of this essay, I am most grateful to Annabel Brett, Laura Donohue, Clare Jackson, and Dmitri Levitin.

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