06 January 2010

Public lecture: The Mixed Constitution: Monarchical and Aristocratic Aspects of Modern Democracy

The 2010 British Academy Lecture, at the British Academy, 10 Carlton Terrace, London, SW1Y 5AH, 25 February 2010, 5.30-6.30 pm

Mogens Herman Hansen (University of Copenhagen): "The Mixed Constitution: Monarchical and Aristocratic Aspects of Modern Democracy"


The theory of the separation of powers between a legislature, an executive, and a judiciary is the foundation of modern representative democracy. It was developed by Montesquieu and came to replace the older theory of the mixed constitution which goes back to Plato, Aristotle, and Polybios, that there are three types of constitution: monarchy, oligarchy, and democracy. When institutions from each of the three types are mixed, an interplay between the institutions emerges that affects all functions of state. Today Montesquieu's separation of powers is obsolete. The mixed constitution deserves to be revived as a corrective to the prevailing view that western states are pure democracies. Ancient political thought is remarkably modern or – rather – modern political thought has much to learn from the Greek and Roman political thinkers.

The annual keynote British Academy Lecture is intended to address a wider audience than the purely scholarly.

British Academy Lectures are freely open to the general public and everyone is welcome; there is no charge for admission, no tickets will be issued, and seats cannot be reserved. The Lecture Room is opened at 5.00 pm, and the first 80 audience members arriving at the Academy will be offered a seat in the Lecture Room; the next 60 people to arrive will be offered a seat in the Overflow Room, which has a video and audio link to the Lecture Room. Lectures are followed by a reception at 6.30 pm, to which members of the audience are invited.

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