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A constitution is an aggregate of fundamental
principles A principle is a proposition or value that is a guide for behavior or evaluation. In law Law is a system A system is a group of Interaction, interacting or interrelated elements that act according to a set of rules to form a unified wh ...

principles
or established
precedents A precedent is a principle or rule established in a previous legal case A legal case is in a general sense a dispute between opposing parties which may be resolved by a court, or by some equivalent legal process. A legal case is typically based ...
that constitute the
legal Law is a system A system is a group of Interaction, interacting or interrelated elements that act according to a set of rules to form a unified whole. A system, surrounded and influenced by its environment, is described by its boundari ...

legal
basis of a
polity A polity is an identifiable political entity—any group of people who have a collective identity, who are organized by some form of Institutionalisation, institutionalized social relation, social relations, and have a capacity to mobilize resourc ...
,
organisation An organization, or organisation (Commonwealth English The use of the English language English is a West Germanic languages, West Germanic language first spoken in History of Anglo-Saxon England, early medieval England, which ha ...

organisation
or other type of
entity An entity is something that exists as itself, as a subject or as an object, actually or potentially, concretely or abstractly, physically or not. It need not be of material existence. In particular, abstraction Abstraction in its main sense is ...
and commonly determine how that entity is to be governed. When these principles are written down into a single document or set of legal documents, those documents may be said to embody a ''written constitution''; if they are encompassed in a single comprehensive document, it is said to embody a ''codified constitution''.
The Constitution of the United Kingdom The Constitution of the United Kingdom or British constitution comprises the written and unwritten arrangements that establish the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Irel ...
is a notable example of an ''uncodified constitution''; it is instead written in numerous fundamental Acts of a legislature, court cases or treaties. Constitutions concern different levels of organizations, from
sovereign countries The following is a list providing an overview of sovereign states around the world, with information on their status and recognition of their sovereignty. The 206 listed states can be divided into three categories based on membership within ...
to
companies A company, abbreviated as co., is a legal entity In law, a legal person is any person A person (plural people or persons) is a being that has certain capacities or attributes such as reason, morality, consciousness or self-consciousness ...

companies
and unincorporated associations. A
treaty A treaty is a formal, legally binding written agreement between actors in international law International law, also known as public international law and law of nations, is the set of rules, norms, and standards generally accepted in relat ...

treaty
which establishes an
international organization An international organization (also known as an international institution or intergovernmental organization) is a stable set of norms and rules meant to govern the behavior of states and other actors in the international system. Organizations m ...
is also its constitution, in that it would define how that organization is constituted. Within
states State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of State * The State (newspaper), ''The State'' (newspaper), a daily newspaper in Columbia, South Carolina, Un ...
, a constitution defines the principles upon which the state is based, the procedure in which laws are made and by whom. Some constitutions, especially codified constitutions, also act as limiters of state power, by establishing lines which a state's rulers cannot cross, such as
fundamental rights Fundamental rights are a group of rights that have been recognized by a high degree of protection from encroachment. These rights are specifically identified in a constitution A constitution is an aggregate of fundamental principles A princ ...
. The
Constitution of India The Constitution of India (IAST The International Alphabet of Sanskrit Transliteration (IAST) is a transliteration scheme that allows the lossless romanisation Romanization or romanisation, in linguistics Linguistics is the sci ...

Constitution of India
is the longest written constitution of any country in the world, with 146,385 words in its
English-language English is a West Germanic languages, West Germanic language first spoken in History of Anglo-Saxon England, early medieval England, which has eventually become the World language, leading language of international discourse in the 21st centu ...
version, while the
Constitution of Monaco The Constitution of Monaco, first adopted in 1911 after the Monégasque Revolution The Monégasque Revolution of 1910 was a series of confrontations by the subjects of Monaco Monaco (; ), officially the Principality of Monaco (french: Princi ...
is the shortest written constitution with 3,814 words. The
Constitution of San Marino The Constitution of the Republic of San Marino (also called the Constitution of the Most Serene Republic of San Marino) is distributed over a number of legislative instruments of which the most significant are the Statutes of 1600 and the Declarat ...
might be the world's oldest active written constitution, since some of its core documents have been in operation since 1600, while the
Constitution of the United States The Constitution of the United States is the supreme law A constitution is an aggregate of fundamental principles or established precedents that constitute the legal basis of a polity, organisation An organization, or orga ...
is the oldest active codified constitution. The historical life expectancy of a constitution since 1789 is approximately 19 years.


Etymology

The term ''constitution'' comes through French from the
Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language A classical language is a language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share" or "to be in relation with") is "an appa ...
word ''constitutio'', used for regulations and orders, such as the
imperial Imperial is that which relates to an empire, emperor, or imperialism. Imperial or The Imperial may also refer to: Places United States * Imperial, California * Imperial, Missouri * Imperial, Nebraska * Imperial, Pennsylvania * Imperial, Texas * ...

imperial
enactments (''constitutiones principis'': edicta, mandata, decreta, rescripta). Later, the term was widely used in
canon law Canon law (from grc, κανών, , a 'straight measuring rod, ruler A ruler, sometimes called a rule or line gauge, is a device used in geometry and technical drawing, as well as the engineering and construction industries, to measure dis ...
for an important determination, especially a decree issued by the
Pope The pope ( la, papa, from el, πάππας, translit=pappas, "father"), also known as the supreme pontiff () or the Roman pontiff (), is the bishop of Diocese of Rome, Rome, chief pastor of the worldwide Catholic Church, and head of state o ...

Pope
, now referred to as an ''
apostolic constitution An apostolic constitution ( la, constitutio apostolica) is the most solemn form of legislation Legislation is law which has been promulgation, promulgated (or "enactment of a bill, enacted") by a legislature or other Government, governing body o ...
''.
William Blackstone Sir William Blackstone (10 July 1723 – 14 February 1780) was an English jurist A jurist is a person with expert knowledge of law; someone who analyses and comments on law. This person is usually a specialist legal scholarnot necessaril ...

William Blackstone
used the term for significant and egregious violations of public trust, of a nature and extent that the transgression would justify a
revolutionary A revolutionary is a person who either participates in, or advocates a revolution. Also, when used as an adjective, the term ''revolutionary'' refers to something that has a major, sudden impact on society or on some aspect of human endeavor. D ...
response. The term as used by Blackstone was not for a legal text, nor did he intend to include the later American concept of
judicial review Judicial review is a process under which executive Executive may refer to: Role, title, or function * Executive (government), branch of government that has authority and responsibility for the administration of state bureaucracy * Executive, ...
: "for that were to set the judicial power above that of the legislature, which would be subversive of all government".


General features

Generally, every modern written constitution confers specific powers on an organization or institutional entity, established upon the primary condition that it abides by the constitution's limitations. According to Scott Gordon, a political organization is constitutional to the extent that it "contain
institution Institutions, according to Samuel P. Huntington Samuel Phillips Huntington (April 18, 1927 – December 24, 2008) was an American political scientist, adviser and academic. He spent more than half a century at Harvard University Har ...
alized mechanisms of power control for the protection of the interests and of the
citizenry Citizenship is the status of a person recognized under the law of a country A country is a distinct territory, territorial body or political entity. It is often referred to as the land of an individual's birth, residence or citizenship. ...

citizenry
, including those that may be in the minority". Activities of officials within an organization or polity that fall within the constitutional or statutory authority of those officials are termed "within power" (or, in Latin, ''intra vires''); if they do not, they are termed "beyond power" (or, in Latin, ''
ultra vires ''Ultra vires'' (Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of the Rom ...
''). For example, a
students' union A students' union, also known by many other names, is a student organization present in many colleges, universities, and high schools. In higher education, the students' union is often accorded its own building on the campus, dedicated to social, ...
may be prohibited as an organization from engaging in activities not concerning students; if the union becomes involved in non-student activities, these activities are considered to be ''ultra vires'' of the union's charter, and nobody would be compelled by the charter to follow them. An example from the constitutional law of
sovereign state A sovereign state is a political entity A polity is an identifiable political entity—any group of people who have a collective identity, who are organized by some form of Institutionalisation, institutionalized social relation, social relatio ...
s would be a provincial
parliament In modern politics and history, a parliament is a legislative A legislature is an assembly Assembly may refer to: Organisations and meetings * Deliberative assembly A deliberative assembly is a gathering of members (of any kind of ...

parliament
in a
federal state A federation (also known as a federal state) is a political entity characterized by a union of partially self-governing provinces, states, or other regions under a central federal government (federalism Federalism is a mixed or compou ...
trying to legislate in an area that the constitution allocates exclusively to the federal parliament, such as ratifying a treaty. Action that appears to be beyond power may be judicially reviewed and, if found to be beyond power, must cease. Legislation that is found to be beyond power will be "invalid" and of no force; this applies to primary legislation, requiring constitutional authorization, and secondary legislation, ordinarily requiring statutory authorization. In this context, "within power", ''intra vires'', "authorized" and "valid" have the same meaning; as do "beyond power", ''ultra vires'', "not authorized" and "invalid". In most but not all modern states the constitution has supremacy over ordinary
statutory law Statutory law or statute law is written law passed by a body of legislature. This is as opposed to Oral law, oral or customary law; or regulatory law promulgated by the Executive (government), executive or common law of the judiciary. Statutes may ...
(see
Uncodified constitution An uncodified constitution is a type of constitution where the fundamental rules often take the form of custom (law), customs, usage, precedent and a variety of statutes and legal instruments.Johari, J. C. (2006) ''New Comparative Government'', L ...
below); in such states when an official act is unconstitutional, i.e. it is not a power granted to the government by the constitution, that act is ''null and void'', and the nullification is ''
ab initio ''Ab initio'' ( ) is a Latin term meaning "from the beginning" and is derived from the Latin ''ab'' ("from") + ''initio'', ablative singular of ''initium'' ("beginning"). Etymology , from Latin, , from ablative case of ''initium'' "entrance, begi ...
'', that is, from inception, not from the date of the finding. It was never "law", even though, if it had been a statute or statutory provision, it might have been adopted according to the procedures for adopting legislation. Sometimes the problem is not that a statute is unconstitutional, but that the application of it is, on a particular occasion, and a court may decide that while there are ways it could be applied that are constitutional, that instance was not allowed or legitimate. In such a case, only that application may be ruled unconstitutional. Historically, the remedies for such violations have been petitions for common law
writ In , a writ (Anglo-Saxon ''gewrit'', Latin ''breve'') is a formal written order issued by a body with administrative or judicial ; in modern usage, this body is generally a . , s, s, and are common types of writ, but many forms exist and have ...

writ
s, such as ''
quo warranto In British and American common law In law, common law (also known as judicial precedent or judge-made law, or case law) is the body of law created by judges and similar quasi-judicial tribunals by virtue of being stated in written opinions. ''B ...
''. Scholars debate whether a constitution must necessarily be
autochthonous River ecosystems are flowing waters that drain the landscape, and include the Biotic component, biotic (living) interactions amongst plants, animals and micro-organisms, as well as abiotic (nonliving) physical and chemical interactions of its many ...
, resulting from the nations "spirit".
Hegel Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (; ; 27 August 1770 – 14 November 1831) was a German German(s) may refer to: Common uses * of or related to Germany * Germans, Germanic ethnic group, citizens of Germany or people of German ancestry * For citi ...

Hegel
said "A constitution...is the work of centuries; it is the idea, the consciousness of rationality so far as that consciousness is developed in a particular nation."


History and development

Since 1789, along with the
Constitution of the United States of America The Constitution of the United States is the supreme law of the United States of America The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US), or America, is a country Contiguous United States, primar ...
(U.S. Constitution), which is the oldest and shortest written constitution still in force, close to 800 constitutions have been adopted and subsequently amended around the world by independent states. In the late 18th century,
Thomas Jefferson Thomas Jefferson (April 13, 1743 – July 4, 1826) was an American statesman, diplomat, lawyer, architect, philosopher, and who served as the third from 1801 to 1809. He had previously served as the second under and as the first under ...

Thomas Jefferson
predicted that a period of 20 years would be the optimal time for any constitution to be still in force, since "the earth belongs to the living, and not to the dead." Indeed, according to recent studies,() the average life of any new written constitution is around 19 years. However, a great number of constitutions do not last more than 10 years, and around 10% do not last more than one year, as was the case of the
French Constitution of 1791 The French Constitution of 1791 (french: Constitution française du 3 september 1791) was the first written constitution in France, created after the collapse of the absolute monarchy of the . One of the basic precepts of the French Revolution w ...
. The most common reasons for these frequent changes are the political desire for an immediate outcome and the short time devoted to the constitutional drafting process.() A study in 2009 showed that the average time taken to draft a constitution is around 16 months,() however there were also some extreme cases registered. For example, the
Myanmar Myanmar, ); UK pronunciations: US pronunciations incl. . Note: Wikipedia's IPA conventions require indicating /r/ even in British English although only some British English speakers pronounce r at the end of syllables. As John C. Wells, John ...

Myanmar
2008 Constitution was being secretly drafted for more than 17 years, whereas at the other extreme, during the drafting of
Japan Japan ( ja, 日本, or , and formally ) is an island country An island country or an island nation is a country A country is a distinct territory, territorial body or political entity. It is often referred to as the land of an in ...

Japan
's 1946 Constitution, the bureaucrats drafted everything in no more than a week. Japan has the oldest unamended constitution in the world. The record for the shortest overall process of drafting, adoption, and ratification of a national constitution belongs to the
Romania Romania ( ; ro, România ) is a country at the crossroads of Central Central is an adjective usually referring to being in the center (disambiguation), center of some place or (mathematical) object. Central may also refer to: Directions ...

Romania
's 1938 constitution, which installed a royal dictatorship in less than a month. Studies showed that typically extreme cases where the constitution-making process either takes too long or is extremely short were non-democracies. Constitutional rights are not a specific characteristic of democratic countries. Non-democratic countries have constitutions, such as that of
North Korea North Korea, officially the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), is a country in East Asia, constituting the northern part of the Korean Peninsula. It borders China and Russia to the north, at the Yalu River, Yalu (Amnok) and Tu ...

North Korea
, which officially grants every citizen, among other rights, the
freedom of expression in London, 1974 Freedom of speech is a principle that supports the freedom Freedom, generally, is having the ability to act or change without constraint. Something is "free" if it can change easily and is not constrained in its present stat ...
.


Pre-modern constitutions


Ancient

Excavations in modern-day
Iraq Iraq ( ar, الْعِرَاق, translit=al-ʿIrāq; ku, عێراق, translit=Êraq), officially the Republic of Iraq ( ar, جُمْهُورِيَّة ٱلْعِرَاق '; ku, کۆماری عێراق, translit=Komarî Êraq), is a country i ...

Iraq
by
Ernest de Sarzec Ernest Choquin de Sarzec (1832–1901) was a French archaeologist, to whom is attributed the discovery of the civilization of ancient Sumer. He was in the French diplomatic service; on being transferred to Basra in 1872 as a vice-consul, he became ...
in 1877 found evidence of the earliest known code of justice, issued by the
Sumer Sumer ()The name is from '; ''kig̃ir'', written and ,approximately "land of the civilized kings" or "native land". means "native, local", ifrom ''The Pennsylvania Sumerian Dictionary''). Literally, "land of the native (local, noble) lor ...

Sumer
ian king
Urukagina Uru-ka-gina, Uru-inim-gina, or Iri-ka-gina ( sux, ; 24th century BC, middle chronology The chronology of the ancient Near East is a chronology, framework of dates for various events, rulers and dynasties. Historical inscriptions and texts c ...
of
Lagash Lagash (cuneiform: LAGAŠKI; Sumerian: ''Lagaš''), or Shirpurla, was an ancient city state A city-state is an independent sovereign Sovereign is a title which can be applied to the highest leader in various categories. The word is borrowe ...

Lagash
c. 2300 BC. Perhaps the earliest prototype for a law of government, this document itself has not yet been discovered; however it is known that it allowed some rights to his citizens. For example, it is known that it relieved tax for widows and orphans, and protected the poor from the
usury Usury () is the practice of making unethical or immoral monetary s that unfairly enrich the lender. The term may be used in a moral sense—condemning, taking advantage of others' misfortunes—or in a legal sense, where an interest rate is charg ...
of the rich. After that, many
governments A government is the system or group of people governing an organized community, generally a state. In the case of its broad associative definition, government normally consists of legislature A legislature is a deliberative assemb ...

governments
ruled by special codes of written laws. The oldest such document still known to exist seems to be the
Code of Ur-Nammu The Code of Ur-Nammu is the oldest known law code A code of law, also called a law code or legal code, is a type of legislation that purports to exhaustively cover a complete system of laws or a particular area of law as it existed at the time t ...
of (c. 2050 BC). Some of the better-known ancient law codes are the code of Lipit-Ishtar of
Isin Isin (, modern Arabic Arabic (, ' or , ' or ) is a Semitic language The Semitic languages are a branch of the Afroasiatic language family originating in the Middle East The Middle East is a list of transcontinental countrie ...
, the
code of Hammurabi The Code of Hammurabi is a Babylonian legal text composed 1755–1750 BC. It is the longest, best-organised, and best-preserved legal text from the ancient Near East. It is written in the Old Babylonian dialect of Akkadian, purportedly by Ham ...

code of Hammurabi
of
Babylonia Babylonia () was an and based in central-southern which was part of Ancient Persia (present-day and ). A small -ruled state emerged in 1894 BCE, which contained the minor administrative town of . It was merely a small provincial town dur ...
, the Hittite code, the Assyrian code, and
Mosaic law The Law of Moses ( he, תֹּורַת מֹשֶׁה ), also called the Mosaic Law, primarily refers to the Torah Torah (; he, תּוֹרָה, "Instruction", "Teaching" or "Law") has a range of meanings. It can most specifically mean the fi ...
. In 621 BC, a scribe named
Draco DRACO (double-stranded RNA Ribonucleic acid (RNA) is a polymer A polymer (; Greek '' poly-'', "many" + '' -mer'', "part") is a substance or material consisting of very large molecule File:Pentacene on Ni(111) STM.jpg, A scanning t ...
codified the oral laws of the
city-state A city-state is an independent sovereign Sovereign is a title which can be applied to the highest leader in various categories. The word is borrowed from Old French Old French (, , ; Modern French French ( or ) is a Romance la ...
of
Athens , image_skyline = File:Athens Montage L.png, center, 275px, alt=Athens montage. Clicking on an image in the picture causes the browser to load the appropriate article. rect 15 15 985 460 Acropolis of Athens rect 15 475 48 ...

Athens
; this code prescribed the
death penalty Capital punishment, also known as the death penalty, is the state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of State * The State (newspaper), ' ...

death penalty
for many offenses (thus creating the modern term "draconian" for very strict rules). In 594 BC,
Solon Solon ( grc-gre, Σόλων Solon ( grc-gre, wikt:Σόλων, Σόλων ''Sólōn'' ;  BC) was an Archaic Greece#Athens, Athenian statesman, lawmaker and poet. He is remembered particularly for his efforts to legislate against political, e ...

Solon
, the ruler of Athens, created the new ''
Solonian Constitution The Solonian Constitution was created by Solon in the early 6th century BC. At the time of Solon the Athenian State was almost falling to pieces in consequence of dissensions between the parties into which the population was divided. Solon wanted ...
''. It eased the burden of the workers, and determined that membership of the ruling class was to be based on wealth (
plutocracy A plutocracy ( el, πλοῦτος, ', 'wealth' and , ', 'power') or plutarchy is a society that is ruled or controlled by people of great wealth Wealth is the abundance (economics), abundance of Value (economics), valuable financial asse ...
), rather than on birth (
aristocracy Aristocracy ( grc-gre, ἀριστοκρατία , from 'excellent', and , 'rule') is a form of government A government is the system or group of people governing an organized community, generally a state State may refer to: Ar ...
).
Cleisthenes Cleisthenes ( ; grc-gre, Κλεισθένης, Kleisthénēs, ) or Clisthenes ( la, Clīsthenēs ) was an ancient Athenian lawgiver credited with reforming the constitution of ancient Athens Athens ( ; el, Αθήνα, Athína ; grc, Ἀθ ...
again reformed the Athenian constitution and set it on a democratic footing in 508 BC.
Aristotle Aristotle (; grc-gre, Ἀριστοτέλης ''Aristotélēs'', ; 384–322 BC) was a Greek philosopher A philosopher is someone who practices philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental quest ...

Aristotle
(c. 350 BC) was the first to make a formal distinction between ordinary law and constitutional law, establishing ideas of constitution and
constitutionalism Constitutionalism is "a compound of ideas, attitudes, and patterns of behavior elaborating the principle that the authority of government derives from and is limited by a body of fundamental law". Political organizations are constitutional ...

constitutionalism
, and attempting to classify different forms of constitutional government. The most basic definition he used to describe a constitution in general terms was "the arrangement of the offices in a state". In his works '' Constitution of Athens'', ''
Politics Politics (from , ) is the set of activities that are associated with Decision-making, making decisions in Social group, groups, or other forms of Power (social and political), power relations between individuals, such as the distribution of res ...
'', and ''
Nicomachean Ethics The ''Nicomachean Ethics'' (; grc, Ἠθικὰ Νικομάχεια, ) is the name normally given to 's best-known work on . The work, which plays a role in defining , consists of ten books, originally separate scrolls, and is understood to be ...
'', he explores different constitutions of his day, including those of Athens,
Sparta Sparta (Doric Greek Doric or Dorian ( grc, Δωρισμός, Dōrismós) was an . Its variants were spoken in the southern and eastern as well as in , , , , , some islands in the southern and some cities on the south east coast of ...
, and
Carthage Carthage was the capital city of the ancient , on the eastern side of the in what is now . Carthage was the most important trading hub of the Ancient Mediterranean and one of the most affluent cities of the . The city developed from a n colony ...

Carthage
. He classified both what he regarded as good and what he regarded as bad constitutions, and came to the conclusion that the best constitution was a mixed system including monarchic, aristocratic, and democratic elements. He also distinguished between citizens, who had the right to participate in the state, and non-citizens and slaves, who did not. The Romans initially codified their constitution in 450 BC as the ''
Twelve Tables The ''Law of the Twelve tables'' ( la, Leges Duodecim Tabularum or ) was the legislation that stood at the foundation of Roman law Roman law is the law, legal system of ancient Rome, including the legal developments spanning over a thousand y ...
''. They operated under a series of laws that were added from time to time, but
Roman law Roman law is the law, legal system of ancient Rome, including the legal developments spanning over a thousand years of jurisprudence, from the Twelve Tables (c. 449 BC), to the ''Corpus Juris Civilis'' (AD 529) ordered by Eastern Roman emperor J ...
was not reorganised into a single code until the ''
Codex Theodosianus The ''Codex Theodosianus'' (Eng. Theodosian Code) was a compilation of the laws Law is a system of rules created and law enforcement, enforced through social or governmental institutions to regulate behavior,Robertson, ''Crimes against huma ...

Codex Theodosianus
'' (438 AD); later, in the Eastern Empire, the '' Codex repetitæ prælectionis'' (534) was highly influential throughout Europe. This was followed in the east by the ''Ecloga'' of
Leo III the Isaurian Leo III the Isaurian ( gr, Λέων Γ ὁ Ἴσαυρος, Leōn ho Isauros; 685 – 18 June 741), also known as the Syrian, was Byzantine Emperor from 717 until his death in 741 and founder of the Isaurian dynasty. He put an end to the Twent ...
(740) and the ''Basilica'' of
Basil I Basil I, called the Macedonian ( el, Βασίλειος ὁ Μακεδών, ''Basíleios ō Makedṓn''; 811 – August 29, 886), was a Byzantine Emperor This is a list of the Byzantine emperors from the foundation of Constantinople la, Co ...

Basil I
(878). The ''
Edicts of Ashoka The Edicts of Ashoka are a collection of more than thirty inscriptions on the , as well as boulders and cave walls, attributed to Emperor of the who reigned from 268 BCE to 232 BCE. Ashoka used the expression ''Dhaṃma '' ( in the : , "Ins ...
'' established constitutional principles for the 3rd century BC
Maurya The Maurya Empire was a geographically extensive Iron Age list of ancient great powers, historical power in South Asia based in Magadha, founded by Chandragupta Maurya in 322 BCE, and existing in loose-knit fashion until 185 BCE. Quote: "Ma ...
king's rule in
India India, officially the Republic of India (Hindi: ), is a country in South Asia. It is the List of countries and dependencies by area, seventh-largest country by area, the List of countries and dependencies by population, second-most populous ...
. For constitutional principles almost lost to antiquity, see the code of Manu.


Early Middle Ages

Many of the Germanic peoples that filled the power vacuum left by the
Western Roman Empire The Western Roman Empire comprises the western provinces of the Roman Empire The Roman Empire ( la, Imperium Rōmānum ; grc-gre, Βασιλεία τῶν Ῥωμαίων, Basileía tôn Rhōmaíōn) was the post-Republican Republican ...

Western Roman Empire
in the
Early Middle Ages The Early Middle Ages or Early Medieval Period, sometimes referred to as the Dark Ages, is typically regarded by historians as lasting from the late 5th or early 6th century to the 10th century. They marked the start of the Middle Ages ...
codified their laws. One of the first of these Germanic law codes to be written was the Visigothic ''Code of
Euric Euric (Gothic Gothic or Gothics may refer to: People and languages *Goths or Gothic people, the ethnonym of a group of East Germanic tribes **Gothic language, an extinct East Germanic language spoken by the Goths **Crimean Gothic, the Gothic l ...
'' (471 AD). This was followed by the ''
Lex Burgundionum The ''Lex Burgundionum'' (Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of t ...
'', applying separate codes for Germans and for Romans; the '' Pactus Alamannorum''; and the
Salic Law#REDIRECT Salic law The Salic law ( or ; la, Lex salica), or the was the ancient Salian Franks, Salian Frankish Civil law (legal system), civil law code compiled around AD 500 by the first Frankish King, Clovis I, Clovis. The written text is in La ...
of the
Franks The Franks ( la, Franci or ) were a group of whose name was first mentioned in 3rd-century Roman sources, and associated with tribes between the and the , on the edge of the . Later the term was associated with Germanic dynasties within the ...

Franks
, all written soon after 500. In 506, the '' Breviarum'' or ''"Lex Romana"'' of
Alaric II Alaric II ( got, 𐌰𐌻𐌰𐍂𐌴𐌹𐌺𐍃, , "ruler of all"; la, Alaricus; August 507) was the in 484–507. He succeeded his father as king of the in on 28 December 484; he was the great-grandson of the more famous , who sacked Rom ...
, king of the Visigoths, adopted and consolidated the ''Codex Theodosianus'' together with assorted earlier Roman laws. Systems that appeared somewhat later include the ''
Edictum Rothari Illumination of a manuscript of the Edict of Rothari The ''Edictum Rothari'' (lit. ''Edict of Rothari''; also ''Edictus Rothari'' or ''Edictum Rotharis'') was the first written compilation of Lombards, Lombard law, codified and promulgated on 22 No ...
'' of the
Lombards The Lombards () or Langobards ( la, Langobardi) were a Germanic people Germanic may refer to: * Germanic peoples The historical Germanic peoples (from lat, Germani) are a category of ancient northern European tribes, first mentioned by G ...
(643), the ''
Lex Visigothorum The cover of an edition of the Liber Iudiciorum from 1600. The Visigothic Code ( la, Forum Iudicum, Liber Iudiciorum; es, Libro de los Jueces, Book of the Judges), also called ''Lex Visigothorum'' (English: Law of the Visigoths), is a set of laws f ...
'' (654), the ''Lex Alamannorum'' (730), and the '' Lex Frisionum'' (c. 785). These continental codes were all composed in Latin, while
Anglo-Saxon The Anglo-Saxons were a who inhabited . They traced their origins to the 5th century settlement of incomers to Britain, who migrated to the island from the coastlands of . However, the of the Anglo-Saxons occurred within Britain, and the ide ...
was used for those of England, beginning with the Code of
Æthelberht of Kent Æthelberht (; also Æthelbert, Aethelberht, Aethelbert or Ethelbert; ang, Æðelberht ; 550 – 24 February 616) was of from about 589 until his death. The eighth-century monk , in his ', lists him as the third king to hold ' over oth ...
(602). Around 893,
Alfred the Great Alfred the Great (848/49 – 26 October 899) was king of the West Saxons This is a list of monarchs of Wessex until 886 AD. For later monarchs, see the List of English monarchs. While the details of the later monarchs are confirmed by a numbe ...

Alfred the Great
combined this and two other earlier Saxon codes, with various Mosaic and Christian precepts, to produce the '' Doom book'' code of laws for England.
Japan Japan ( ja, 日本, or , and formally ) is an island country An island country or an island nation is a country A country is a distinct territory, territorial body or political entity. It is often referred to as the land of an in ...

Japan
's ''
Seventeen-article constitution The is, according to the ''Nihon Shoki The , sometimes translated as ''The Chronicles of Japan'', is the second-oldest book of classical History of Japan, Japanese history. The book is also called the . It is more elaborate and detailed than th ...
'' written in 604, reportedly by
Prince Shōtoku , also known as or , was a semi-legendary regent A regent (from the Latin : ruling, governing) is a person appointed to govern a state ''pro tempore'' (Latin Language, Latin: 'for the time being') because the regnant monarch is a minor, is ...

Prince Shōtoku
, is an early example of a constitution in Asian political history. Influenced by
Buddhist Buddhism (, ) is the world's fourth-largest religion Religion is a - of designated and practices, , s, s, , , , , or , that relates humanity to , , and elements; however, there is no scholarly consensus over what precisely constitu ...

Buddhist
teachings, the document focuses more on social morality than on institutions of government, and remains a notable early attempt at a government constitution. The
Constitution of Medina The Constitution of Medina (, ''Dustūr al-Madīnah''), also known as the Charter of Medina ( ar, صحيفة المدينة, ''Ṣaḥīfat al-Madīnah''; or: , ''Mīthāq al-Madīnah'' "Covenant of Medina"), was drawn up on behalf of the Islamic ...
( ar, صحیفة المدینه, Ṣaḥīfat al-Madīna), also known as the Charter of Medina, was drafted by the
Islamic prophet Prophets in Islam ( ar, الأنبياء في الإسلام, translit=al-ʾAnbiyāʾ fī al-ʾIslām) are individuals in Islam who are believed to spread God in Islam, God's message on Earth and to serve as models of ideal human behaviour. Som ...
Muhammad Muhammad ibn AbdullahHe is referred to by many appellations, including Messenger of Allah, The Prophet Muhammad, Allah's Apostle, Last Prophet of Islam, and others; there are also many variant spellings of Muhammad, such as Mohamet, Mohammed, ...

Muhammad
after his flight ( hijra) to Yathrib where he became political leader. It constituted a formal agreement between Muhammad and all of the significant tribes and families of Yathrib (later known as
Medina Medina,, ', "the radiant city"; or , ', (), "the city" officially Al Madinah Al Munawwarah (, ), commonly simplified as Madīnah or Madinah (, ), is the second in and the of the of . The 2020 estimated population of the city is 1,488,782, ma ...

Medina
), including
Muslim Muslims () are people who follow or practice Islam Islam (; ar, اَلْإِسْلَامُ, al-’Islām, "submission o God Oh God may refer to: * An exclamation; similar to "oh no", "oh yes", "oh my", "aw goodness", "ah gosh", ...

Muslim
s,
Jew Jews ( he, יְהוּדִים ISO 259-2ISO The International Organization for Standardization (ISO; ) is an international standard are technical standards developed by international organizations (intergovernmental organizations), suc ...

Jew
s, and
pagan Paganism (from classical Latin Classical Latin is the form of Latin, Latin language recognized as a Literary language, literary standard language, standard by writers of the late Roman Republic and early Roman Empire. It was used from 75 BC ...

pagan
s. The document was drawn up with the explicit concern of bringing to an end the bitter intertribal fighting between the clans of the Aws ( Aus) and
Khazraj The Banu Khazraj ( ar, بنو خزرج) is a large tribe in Medina Medina, ', "the radiant city"; or , ' (), "the city", officially Al Madinah Al Munawwarah (), commonly simplified as Madīnah or Madinah, is the second holiest city in Islam ...
within Medina. To this effect it instituted a number of rights and responsibilities for the Muslim, Jewish, and pagan communities of Medina bringing them within the fold of one community – the
Ummah ' ( ar, أمة ) is an Arabic Arabic (, ' or , ' or ) is a Semitic language The Semitic languages are a branch of the Afroasiatic language family originating in the Middle East The Middle East is a list of transcontinental cou ...
. The precise dating of the Constitution of Medina remains debated, but generally scholars agree it was written shortly after the Hijra (622). In
Wales Wales ( cy, Cymru ) is a Countries of the United Kingdom, country that is part of the United Kingdom. It is bordered by England to the Wales–England border, east, the Irish Sea to the north and west, and the Bristol Channel to the south. It ...

Wales
, the ''
Cyfraith Hywel ''Cyfraith Hywel'' (; ''Laws of HywelHywel or (), sometimes anglicised Linguistic anglicisation (or anglicization, occasionally anglification, anglifying, or Englishing) is the practice of modifying foreign words, names, and phrases to make t ...
'' (Law of Hywel) was codified by
Hywel Dda Hywel Dda, sometimes anglicised as Howel the Good, or Hywel ap Cadell (c. 880 – 948) was a king of Deheubarth who eventually came to rule most of Wales. He became the sole king of Seisyllwg in 920 and shortly thereafter established Deheubarth ...

Hywel Dda
c. 942–950.


Middle Ages after 1000

The ''Pravda Yaroslava'', originally combined by
Yaroslav the Wise Yaroslav the Wise or Yaroslav I; russian: Ярослав Мудрый, ; uk, Ярослав Мудрий; non, Jarizleifr Valdamarsson; la, Iaroslaus Sapiens. (c. 978 – 20 February 1054) was the Grand Prince of Kiev from 1019 until his death. ...

Yaroslav the Wise
the
Grand Prince of Kyiv Grand Prince of Kiev (sometimes Grand Duke of Kiev) was the title of the prince of Kiev (Kyiv Kyiv ( uk, Київ) or Kiev . is the capital and most populous city of Ukraine. It is in north-central Ukraine along the Dnieper River. Its pop ...
, was granted to
Great Novgorod Veliky Novgorod ( rus, links=no, Великий Новгород, p=vʲɪˈlʲikʲɪj ˈnovɡərət), also known as Novgorod the Great, or Novgorod Veliky, or just Novgorod (meaning "newtown"), is one of the oldest historic cities of Russia ...
around 1017, and in 1054 was incorporated into the ''
Ruska Pravda). from Synodic Kormchaia of 1282 (Veliky Novgorod, Novgorod) , date_created = from the beginning of the 11th century , date_ratified = , location_of_document = , writer = prince`s administration. , signers = , purpose = guidance for the princely cou ...
''; it became the law for all of
Kievan Rus Kievan Rus' ( orv, , Rusĭ, or , , "Rus' land") or Kyivan Rus', was a loose federation A federation (also known as a federal state) is a political entity A polity is an identifiable political entity—any group of people who have a ...
. It survived only in later editions of the 15th century. In England, proclamation of the
Charter of Liberties The Charter of Liberties, also called the Coronation Charter, was a written proclamation by Henry I of England Henry I (c. 1068 – 1 December 1135), also known as Henry Beauclerc, was King of England from 1100 to his death in 1135. He wa ...

Charter of Liberties
in 1100 bound the king for the first time in his treatment of the clergy and the nobility. This idea was extended and refined by the English barony when they forced
King John of the King of the Romans (variant used in the early modern period) File:Nezahualpiltzintli.jpg, Aztec King Nezahualpiltzintli of Texcoco King is the title given to a male monarch in a variety of contexts. The female equivalent is queen re ...

King John
to sign ''
Magna Carta (Medieval Latin for "Great Charter of Freedoms"), commonly called (also ''Magna Charta''; "Great Charter"), is a Royal charter, royal charter of rights agreed to by King John of England at Runnymede, near Windsor, Berkshire, Windsor, on ...

Magna Carta
'' in 1215. The most important single article of the ''Magna Carta'', related to "''
habeas corpus (; from Medieval Latin Medieval Latin was the form of Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, ...
''", provided that the king was not permitted to imprison, outlaw, exile or kill anyone at a whim – there must be
due process Due process is the legal requirement that the state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of State * The State (newspaper), ''The State'' (newspa ...
of law first. This article, Article 39, of the ''Magna Carta'' read: This provision became the cornerstone of English liberty after that point. The
social contract In moral A moral (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power ...
in the original case was between the king and the nobility, but was gradually extended to all of the people. It led to the system of
Constitutional Monarchy A constitutional monarchy, parliamentary monarchy, or democratic monarchy is a form of monarchy in which the monarch exercises his authority in accordance with a constitution and is not alone in deciding. Constitutional monarchies differ from ...
, with further reforms shifting the balance of power from the monarchy and nobility to the
House of Commons The House of Commons is the name for the elected lower house A lower house is one of two chambers Chambers may refer to: Places Canada: *Chambers Township, Ontario United States: *Chambers County, Alabama *Chambers, Arizona, an unincorporat ...
. The
Nomocanon A nomocanon ( gr, Νομοκανών, Nomokanōn; from the Greek ''nomos'' - law and ''Canon (canon law), kanon'' - a rule) is a collection of ecclesiastical law, consisting of the elements from both the Civil law (legal system), civil law and the ...

Nomocanon
of
Saint Sava In religious belief, a saint is a person who is recognized as having an exceptional degree of Q-D-Š, holiness, likeness, or closeness to God. However, the use of the term ''saint'' depends on the context and Christian denomination, denomination ...

Saint Sava
( sr, Законоправило/Zakonopravilo) was the first
Serbia Serbia (, ; Serbian Serbian may refer to: * someone or something related to Serbia, a country in Southeastern Europe * someone or something related to the Serbs, a South Slavic people * in both meanings, depending on the context, it may refe ...

Serbia
n constitution from 1219.
St. Sava's Nomocanon The Nomocanon of Saint Sava ( sr-cyr, Номоканон светог Саве), known in Serbian as ''Zakonopravilo'' (Законоправило) or ''Krmčija'' (), was the highest code in the Serbian Orthodox Church, finished in 1219. This lega ...
was the compilation of
civil law Civil law may refer to: * Civil law (common law) Civil law is a major branch of the law.Glanville Williams. ''Learning the Law''. Eleventh Edition. Stevens. 1982. p. 2. In common law legal systems such as England and Wales and the law of the United ...
, based on
Roman Law Roman law is the law, legal system of ancient Rome, including the legal developments spanning over a thousand years of jurisprudence, from the Twelve Tables (c. 449 BC), to the ''Corpus Juris Civilis'' (AD 529) ordered by Eastern Roman emperor J ...
, and
canon law Canon law (from grc, κανών, , a 'straight measuring rod, ruler A ruler, sometimes called a rule or line gauge, is a device used in geometry and technical drawing, as well as the engineering and construction industries, to measure dis ...
, based on
Ecumenical Councils An ecumenical council (or oecumenical council; also general council) is a conference of ecclesiastical {{Short pages monitor
Constitute
an indexed and searchable database of all constitutions in force
Dictionary of the History of Ideas
Constitutionalism

"Constitutions, bibliography, links"
''International Constitutional Law'':
English translations of various national constitutions
''constitutions of countries of the European Union''

United Nations Rule of Law: Constitution-making
on the relationship between constitution-making, the rule of law and the United Nations. {{Authority control Constitutions, Sources of law