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French Constitutional History, Garden or Graveyard?

Some thoughts on occasion of Les Grands Discours Parlementaires

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  18 December 2007


On 29 May 2005 the French said no to the draft of a European Constitution. And frankly, the French should know about constitutions! One can differ whether the history of France should be considered a fruitful garden of constitutional thought, a graveyard of constitutional experiments, a ‘musée des constitutions’, or a minefield; in any case it is beyond doubt that the French are rather experienced in constitutions and constitutional changes. Since the French Revolution in 1789, France has been a monarchy, a republic more than once, an empire twice and a constitutional monarchy in between; the nineteenth century shows the pattern monarchy, republic, empire; since 1958 the French live in their Fifth Republic.

There is a lot to learn from the constitutional history (perhaps struggle is a better word in this context) of this important European country for any political entity in search of a proper constitution. Which constitutional institutions were a success, which were not; why did it or did it not work out the way it was planned?

Review Essay
Copyright © Asser Press 2007

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