British political institutions (2): the legislature (and how Berwick might be at war with Russia)

I like to attend short courses at the City Literary Institute in central London and I’m now doing a six-week course on “British Political Institutions”.  The second session of the course was delivered by the City Lit’s Director Mark Malcolmson and covered the legislature, that is the House of Commons, the House of Lords and the residual role of the monarch.

I have myself written a guide to the British political system and you can read about the legislature or parliament here.

In the course of the lecture, we talked about the odd history of what is now the United Kingdom and reference was made to an issue that was new to me: the idea that Berwick-upon-Tweed might still be a war with Russia.

It seems that, thanks to a bureaucratic mistake, all 12,000 residents of Berwick were excluded from the 1856 peace treaty between Russia and England that Queen Victoria announced at the end of the Crimean War.

This omission was made possible by a 1502 treaty between England and Scotland that succeeded in ending hundreds of years of land arguments over the tiny border town which had already switched sides 13 times.

You can read more about this fascinating vignette here.


XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>