Where do power and authority come from and how do those who have them keep them? What would be the impact of dissolution on the United Kingdom? These are the key questions in this study of English constitutional history, starting with the Tudor period and following the issues up to modern times. Tracing a path from the Tudor constitutional ideal of the king in Parliament to the emergence of civil rights ideas, the re-invention of an imperial Britain (Victoria as Gloriana) and current debates around self-determination, Ward considers how the constitution has been imagined in literature, as well as in historical narrative. In doing so, he makes it clear that Parliament and monarchy are themselves imagined and re-imagined over time, not as glosses on history, but as the centre of a narrative of the constitution. He argues that ultimately, all constitutions depend for their acceptance on their ability to reach the imagination, rather than on the power of a legal code.
There is a revival of interest in constitutional history as a result of the formation of the Scottish and Welsh assemblies and a general questioning of ideas of nationality in today's "global village", an interest historians have scarcely begun to address. Constitutional history seems more relevant than ever, and the vivid approach of this text makes the subject interesting and accessible to the intelligent general reader.