Handbook on the Rule of Law
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Handbook on the Rule of Law

Edited by Christopher May and Adam Winchester

The discussion of the norm of the rule of law has broken out of the confines of jurisprudence and is of growing interest to many non-legal researchers. A range of issues are explored in this volume that will help non-specialists with an interest in the rule of law develop a nuanced understanding of its character and political implications. It is explicitly aimed at those who know the rule of law is important and while having little legal background, would like to know more about the norm.
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Chapter 10: Turning the rule of law into an English constitutional idea

J.W.F Allison


In response to highly selective recent treatment, Dicey’s rule of law contribution is presented, not merely as coining or popularising the well-known phrase, but as multi-faceted. It was the express, methodical and comprehensive incorporation of the rule of law as one of two pervasive constitutional principles, which accorded with his various nineteenth-century expectations or understandings of the English constitution. They are distinguished as expectations of method, national specificity, remedial effectiveness, congruity of first principles, and historicity. The chapter explains to what extent Dicey’s exposition of the rule of law, relative to comparable earlier leading writings on the English constitution, answered those expectations. Dicey’s expectation of congruity of the constitution’s first principles is shown to have been of particular strength, importance and distinctiveness. It affords normative interpretivists good reason both to claim continuity with one prominent facet of Dicey’s contribution and to avoid suspicion of interpretivist distortion by unnecessarily overstating that continuity or by ignoring other such facets.

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