Oxford lecture examines the origins of modern constitutionalism

12 November 2010

On 11 November, Professor Horst Dippel from Kassel University, Germany, delivered his lecture on 'The History of Modern Constitutionalism', as part of the Foundation's programme on the
Social and Political Foundations of Constitutions.

The lecture, held at the Examination Schools in Oxford, examined the distinction between the idea that rights are inherent, and guaranteed by the constitution, and that rights are conferred on the people, or granted by constitutions. Having established the ten principles of modern constitutionalism, as first developed in the Virginia Declaration of Rights of 1776, Professor Dippel assessed some of the conflicts inherent in these, such as the conflict between popular sovereignty and an independent judiciary.

The lecture questioned the reason for the proliferation of these principles in the unprecedednted period of constitution making in the latter decades of the eighteenteenth century. It traced the development of the concept of modern constitutionalism through the influence of such declarations as Article 16 of the French Declaration of Rights, which asserts that a constitution that does not guarantee sovereignty of rights and separation of powers can not be considered to be a 'modern constitution'.

The next event in this series will be held at the Central European University in Budapest on 18th March, when we will be assessing contemporary constitutional developments in Eastern Europe.