Parliament, legal thought and the common law world before and after British rule in Ireland and India


Parliamentary democracy has long been cited as one of the fundamental legal inheritances of the British Empire and British rule around the world. From the writings of 19th- and 20th-century imperial thinkers considering responsible government to contemporary political and cultural debates, the idea of Britain transferring legal and political structures to former territories is at the centre of debates and the subject of much important scholarship, first on the ‘settler dominions’ and more recently on parts of the common law world which gained self-government after 1945. This project aims to provide the first comparison of the development of the Westminster inheritance in countries from the ‘older’ and ‘newer’ Commonwealth countries side by side. 

Taking the cases of Ireland and India, this study will utilise sources in Ireland, India and Britain to analyse proposals for the parliamentary structure of both states; the relationship between each legislature and the Westminster model; the questions of parliament and popular sovereignty; and, finally, how parliaments and constitutional change were envisaged to examine how and why both states abandoned or retained elements of British legal inheritance in the moment of independence and afterwards. While India and Ireland differed in scale and were influenced by geographical, cultural and political circumstances, by comparing two states with common ties in empire prior to independence and shifting political and constitutional influences in the decades which followed, this project aims to shed new light on the significance of longer-term legacies of the Westminster model in a changing legal and political world.

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