Constitutionalism in the periphery: revisiting the roots of self-rule movements in Ireland and India


  • T T Arvind York Law School, University of York
  • Daithí Mac Síthigh Queen's University Belfast


constitutional nationalism, Ireland, India, patriotism, British Empire, legal history


This article re-examines the constitutionalism that underlay moderate self-rule movements in Ireland and India. We argue that early self-rule movements in India and Ireland were rooted in the same civic republican tradition that also influenced Anglo-American political thought but developed it in ways that have no counterparts in English political thought. These developments left a lasting legacy on constitutional thought in India and Ireland and present a contrast with nineteenth-century British political and constitutional thought. Through an examination of Mill and Dicey’s views on empire, we show that constitutional thought in the UK saw a shift away from older republican traditions of politics towards an interests-based constitutionalism, which saw government as being justified by its efficiency in promoting particular interests. We conclude by considering some of the broader implications of our work for the manner in which the British Empire is treated in constitutional scholarship in the present day.