A “lingering diminuendo”? The Conference on Devolution 1919-1920
Evans, Adam B.
This thesis offers the first detailed assessment of an event that has hitherto been consigned to the margins of the literature on devolution and territorial reform in the United Kingdom, the Conference on Devolution, 1919-1920. Sitting between October 1919 and April 1920, the Conference on Devolution was arguably one of the two moments in the UK’s constitutional history when the territorial constitution was approached in a holistic fashion by policy makers and political elites (the other occasion being the Royal Commission on the Constitution, 1969-1973). \ud \ud The primary aim of this thesis is to provide the first detailed analysis of the Conference on Devolution, to develop a fuller understanding of why it was established, what it debated and why it failed. Secondary to that objective, this thesis will also assess what relevance the Conference has for students of territorial governance in the UK today, at a time when the UK’s constitution is in flux. In pursuit of these objectives, the thesis utilises the ideas and insights on territorial governance of James Bulpitt and James Mitchell, alongside an extensive catalogue of archival evidence, including the previously unstudied (in the context of the Conference on Devolution) personal papers of the Conference’s Secretary, Gilbert Campion.\ud \ud Using this methodology and archival sources, the thesis offers a considerable revision to previous understandings of the Conference on Devolution. It demonstrates that the Conference’s fatal disagreement on how the devolved legislatures should be composed, was not, as has been previously portrayed, just a disagreement at the latter stages of the Conference’s work, but was instead a cleavage that undercut the entirety of the Conference on Devolution. Finally, the thesis highlights the clear resonance between the issues deliberated by the Conference and many of today’s territorial governance debates.
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