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Written Constitution and Unwritten Constitution

Written Constitution and Unwritten Constitution provide the fundamental framework to govern a nation and protect the rights of citizens. A constitution written down is similar to a guideline that outlines the most important laws and regulations a nation adheres to in one document.

On the other hand, an unwritten constitution is more of a mixture of customs, traditions, and regulations that define how a country operates, and not all of it is contained in a single document.

What is a Written Constitution?

The written constitution is an official and precise document that functions as the ultimate law of any state or country. It is distinguished in its codified form. This means that all its fundamental principles or rules and basic law are incorporated into a single, comprehensive document.

Written Constitution
Written Constitution

A written constitution typically can be adopted at a certain date and time by a formal and often lengthy procedure, such as the Constitutional Convention, also known as a referendum. A constitution of this type has many advantages, including transparency and clarity in legal issues, since all the details are laid out.

It also allows for easy access and reference, making it easily accessible to people lawyers, professionals in the field, as well as government officials. Furthermore, written constitutions usually contain provisions that protect the rights of fundamental rights as well as freedoms of the individual, assuring that those freedoms are explicitly defined and protected.

The most well-known examples of countries that have written constitutions are the United States, where the U.S. Constitution is the primary document, and Germany and India both have written constitutions that govern their policies.

What is a Unwritten Constitution?

A constitution that is not written is a governance system that does not have a single, codified document that contains all the fundamental principles and rules. Instead, it relies on different sources such as customs, traditions as well as legal precedents, and documents from the past to guide the governance of the state.

The type of constitution changes gradually and does not have an exact date for its adoption. Constitutions that are not written allow for flexibility and apprehension because they are subject to change by traditional practices or through legislation.

Unwritten Constitution
Unwritten Constitution


They reflect the changing customs and values of societies. Some of the most prominent examples of countries with constitutions that are not written include those in the United Kingdom, where the constitution is a mix of conventions, statutes, and historic documents, and New Zealand and Canada, which also rely on a variety of sources to regulate.

Comparison Between Written Constitution and Unwritten Constitution

Here’s a simplified comparison chart highlighting some key differences between written and unwritten constitutions:

Aspect Written Constitution Unwritten Constitution
Definition Codified and explicit in a single document. Relies on customs, conventions, and history.
Clarity Offers clear and specific legal provisions. May lack explicit, written legal clarity.
Flexibility Typically less flexible; requires amendments for changes. More adaptable to evolving circumstances.
Amendment Process Typically involves a formal, structured process. Amendments may occur through practice or conventions.
Protection of Rights Often includes strong protections for individual rights. Protections may be implicit and subject to interpretation.
Historical Roots Rooted in the Enlightenment era and formalized in the modern era. Evolves over time, reflecting historical traditions.
Examples United States, Germany, India. United Kingdom, Canada, New Zealand.

Origins and Historical Statement

Writing Constitution: Writing constitutions is rooted in the past and is evident as a part of the laws and systems used by earlier civilizations such as that of the Greeks as well as the Romans. However, the concept of constitutions written in writing inspired by Enlightenment ideas and events such as the American as well as French revolutions came into prominence.

The United States, with its U.S. Constitution of 1787 was a pioneer in this movement. The other European nations, like France and Germany, also adopted constitutions in writing in the 19th century, in the hope of establishing a democratic government.

The Unwritten Constitution: The constitutions written in unwritten form have evolved organically, being shaped by the nation’s tradition and history. The United Kingdom exemplifies this approach as its constitution has evolved, and is influenced by documents such as The Magna Carta and the Bill of Rights.

Commonwealth countries such as Canada, Australia, and New Zealand combine their historical practices by incorporating written statutes and constitutional conventions. Certain indigenous societies also have unwritten constitutions, which rely on oral traditions, customary laws, and a consensus of the community to express their values and governance structures.

Written vs Unwritten Constitution: Examples

Example of a written constitution

Written Constitution Examples:

  • United States: The U.S. Constitution is a well-known constitution written in the form of a document that was adopted in 1787 which clearly defines the structure of the federal government as well as individual rights.
  • Germany: The German Basic Law, in effect since 1949 is a written constitution that defines federalism, the functions of government agencies, and fundamental rights.
  • India: The country’s comprehensive constitution, which was adopted in 1950, outlines the federal system of the country as well as its democratic principles along with fundamental rights.

Example of the unwritten constitution

Unwritten Constitution Examples:

  • United Kingdom: The UK has a constitution that is not written but built on conventions, statutes, and historical documents such as The Magna Carta and the Bill of Rights.
  • New Zealand: New Zealand’s constitution is based on non-written sources, including conventions, statutes, as well as the Treaty of Waitangi, which regulates the relationship between New Zealand and the Maori people.
  • Canada: Canada has a constitution that is mixed and includes written parts that are in the Constitution Act, of 1867, and the Constitution Act, of 1982, in addition to unwritten conventions and customs.


Advantages of Written Constitutions

Written constitutions offer clarity and security in the legal system by clearly explaining the nation’s laws and governance frameworks. They safeguard the rights of individuals and protect government-imposed restrictions.

Written constitutions provide an organized and systematic process to amend the constitution, which ensures stability and allows for modifications. They aid in maintaining stability by establishing specific guidelines for elections, governance, and succession of leadership that reduce uncertainty and the possibility of instability in the political arena.

This makes writing constitutions an essential instrument for establishing a strong foundation for governance as well as the supremacy of the law in several nations around the world.

Advantages of unWritten Constitution

Unwritten constitutions, although more unstructured than their written counterparts have distinct advantages in the area of governance. They can be flexible and adaptable to changes, allowing them to grow naturally, expressing changes in societal norms and values without needing formal modifications.

Constitutions that are not written often depend on conventions, customs, and traditional practices, which create an atmosphere of continuity and tradition in the nation’s administration. The flexibility of these constitutions allows countries to deal with emerging challenges without the restrictions of rigid rules.

Constitutions that are not written also encourage an approach to governance that is pragmatic and allows for quick responses to changing conditions. The ability to take into account the complexity of a society’s history and culture is a further benefit.


Limitations of  Written Constitution

Writing constitutions, despite their numerous benefits, have certain limitations. One of the major negatives is their rigidity. Since a constitution written in writing is usually codified and needs formal amendments it can be difficult to adjust to changes in circumstances or changing societal demands.

This rigidity may cause problems when trying to deal with unanticipated situations, leading to the need for complicated and time-consuming amendment procedures. In addition, the highly specific nature of constitutions could occasionally lead to disagreements over the meaning of their clauses and provisions, making the legal landscape more complicated.

Written constitutions could be unable to keep up with the changing norms and values which could lead to a disconnection with the constitutional framework and evolving ethical and moral standards of the society.

The process of changing a constitution requires a broad consensus that can be difficult to attain in politically divided environments, thereby hindering the necessity of changes and reforms.

Limitations of Unwritten Constitution

Unwritten constitutions, despite offering flexibility and flexibility, have some limitations. A major issue is the lack of clarity and transparency inherent in a constitution without writing. Since it is based on a variety of sources and traditions, customs as well as legal precedents it is difficult to determine specific constitutional rules and laws, resulting in confusion and uncertainty in legal questions.

The ambiguity may lead to disputes and problems in understanding the Constitution’s non-written aspects. unwritten constitutions can develop gradually in time, which could make it difficult to tackle urgent issues quickly. They also may not have robust safeguards for fundamental rights since these rights may not be as clear as they are in a written constitution.

The reliance of an unwritten constitution on old traditions and practices may perpetuate inequities or outdated norms, rendering it less responsive to changes in society’s values.

Why are written and unwritten constitutions important in governance

Constitutions, both written and unwritten, are crucial to governance for a variety of reasons.

  • Legal Framework: The two kinds of constitutions provide a basic legal framework for defining the government’s structure and the distribution of power as well as the rights and responsibilities of the citizens. This clarity is crucial to the proper functioning of a government.
  • Rule of Law: Constitutions establish the law of the land which ensures that all people including officials of the government are accountable of the laws. This protects against misuse of power and increases accountability.
  • Protection of Rights: Constitutions, no matter how written or unwritten, typically contain provisions that protect the rights of rights and liberties of individuals. They are a way to protect against possible infringements of rights by the government.
  • Stability of Government: Constitutions written particularly, can aid in ensuring stability of the government by providing clear guidelines for succession, elections, and the administration of the government’s institutions.
  • Flexibility and adaptability: Constitutions without written language allow flexibility and apprehension which allows countries to adapt to the changing environment and shifting society’s values without having to make formal changes.
  • Cultural and historical identity: Constitutions are a reflection of the nation’s history, values, and cultural identities. They offer a sense of continuity and shared history for the people.
  • International relations; Constitutions that are written or not often a prerequisite for international recognition which allows a country to be a part of trade and diplomatic relations.
  • Citizens Participation: Constitutions typically establish the rules for participation by citizens in government-related processes including referendums and elections, which encourage participation in democracy and civic engagement.


Written constitutions are clear however they are not flexible and unwritten constitutions are flexible, but may not be as transparent. The choice is contingent on a nation’s history and cultural context. Both are trying to create an outline for governance and to protect rights. The ongoing debate demonstrates the changing nature of the law of Constitution.

By sourav

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