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Foundations of Public Law$
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Martin Loughlin

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780199256853

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199256853.001.0001

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The Birth of Public Law

The Birth of Public Law

(p.50) 2 The Birth of Public Law
Foundations of Public Law

Martin Loughlin

Oxford University Press

Public law emerges as an autonomous field of knowledge in the period between the mid-16th and late 17th centuries. This was a critical period of intense religious conflict in which the character of collective human association was placed in question. The period, marked by the historicization, rationalization, and secularization of political thought, led to the severing of political order from its religious origins and a shift in focus from the sovereign towards the state. The corporate idea of the state became the ground on which an autonomous concept of public law could be built. This chapter explains this transition by reference first to a methodological shift that leads to the promotion of public law as a type of historico-political discourse; secondly to the growth of absolutist thought and the idea of sovereignty; and then to a revolution in natural law thinking leading to the emergence of modern natural right. Sovereignty and right combine to provide the rudiments of the concept of public law.

Keywords:   public law method, absolutism, sovereignty, modern natural law, subjective right, Bodin, Althusius, Grotius, Hobbes, Pufendorf

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