chapter  5
Before 1914: Constitutional states
Pages 47

One way of categorizing European states before 1914 is to separate them according to the way their public affairs were run. On one side can be grouped countries which can be called ‘constitutional’: the United Kingdom, France, Italy and Spain were the largest, but Portugal, Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Denmark, Sweden and (after separation from her in 1905) Norway should also be remembered. Two of these countries were republics (France and Switzerland), the rest monarchies, but monarchies whose crowned rulers had limited powers (some, very limited). Most of them had written constitutions, and in them final authority rested for the most part in law-making parliaments made up of elected representatives of wide electorates. Such bodies sometimes existed in other countries, but, for varying reasons, they did not have the power in them which they had in the constitutional states (sometimes they were quite formally excluded from it). This was the major characteristic of the constitutional states. It was also true (and not unconnected with this) that these were states which at least paid lip service to, and often really respected, the rights of individuals and freedom of expression and association in a way which was not usual elsewhere in Europe. There were, nonetheless, many differences in practice between them arising from tradition, circumstance, religion and culture.