Professor Chris Thornhill

Birmingham Law School
Professor of Law

Contact details

Birmingham Law School
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

Chris Thornhill is an interdisciplinary researcher with research interests in the sociology of law, comparative constitutional law and legal theory. He has published a number of books on the sociology of constitutions, as well as many works on law and philosophy and law and social theory. He has received funding from the European Research Council (Advanced Grant); the AHRC; the Swedish Research Council (international collaboration grant); the Norwegian Research Council.


  • BA (Cantab 1990)
  • MA (Cantab 1991)
  • PhD (Cantab) 1994


Before joining Birmingham in early 2024, Chris held professorial positions in Political Science and Law at Glasgow University and Manchester University. He has also held many guest Professorships outside the UK, including, in Law, the Cátedra Internacional Ministro Celso de Mello (Institute of Public Law, Brasilia) and, in Sociology, the Niklas Luhmann Visiting Professorship in Sociological Theory (University of Bielefeld, Germany). In 2018, he received a Humboldt Prize from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, awarded in recognition of research that has redefined the research field of the recipient. He has strong interests in legal developments in South America and post-Soviet societies, and he has conducted policy-related research and provided policy consultancy in Russia and Brazil. He is a member of the Academia Europaea and has served on the panels of different international research commissions, including the ERC, the European Science Foundation, and national funding bodies in Romania and Ireland. When not working, he likes to listen to classical music, to visit art galleries and to go hiking (especially in France).   


He teaches UK Public Law and comparative constitutional law.

Postgraduate supervision

Chris has supervised PhDs inter alia on: Constitutional Reform in Kenya; Constitutional Reform in Egypt; Jurisprudence of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in National Constitutional Law in South America; the Global Right to Food; the History of International Criminal Law; Military Law and Legal Reform in China; Constitutional Law and Populism in Poland and Brazil; Constitutional Reform in Scotland; Constitutional Reform in Turkey; International Law and Anti-Corruption Policies in Brazil; Transnational Environmental Law in South America; Legal Pluralism in China; Administrative Law in Uzbekistan. He welcomes PhD applications from researchers working in any area of legal sociology and/or comparative constitutional law.

Find out more - our PhD Law  page has information about doctoral research at the University of Birmingham.


Most of Chris’s research in the last fifteen years has been devoted to examining the social foundations of constitutional law, with a particular focus on lines of interaction between national and international law. He uses methods derived from historical sociology to conduct his research in this field. In recent years, he has concentrated on identifying the impact of military events and security policies on constitutional formation in different global contexts. Since 2018, he has written two books on militarism and constitutional law, and he completed a book in 2024 with the title: A Sociology of Post-Imperial Constitutions (Cambridge University Press). This book examines how, in different regions, constitutions have frequently been created as part of a social reaction to military pressures caused by imperialism. He is currently completing a book on legal reform in Central Asia (University of California Press, forthcoming 2025). 


Recent publications


Thornhill, C 2024, A Sociology of Post-Imperial Constitutions. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Thornhill, C 2021, Democratic crisis and global constitutional law: (Portuguese translation 2021; Spanish translation 2024). Global Law Series, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge ; New York.


Thornhill, C 2024, 'Constitutional Law and Cultures of Violence', Historical Social Research, vol. 49, no. 2. <>

Thornhill, C 2023, 'Indigenous Rights as a Field of Sociological Research', Studia Iuridica, vol. 96, pp. 374-404.

Thornhill, C 2022, 'Constitutionalism and Warfare', Direito Publico, vol. 19, no. 102, pp. 343-366.


Thornhill, C 2023, Global Law. in G Verschraegen & R Vanderstraeten (eds), Elgar Encyclopedia of Global Social Theory. Edward Elgar.

Thornhill, C 2023, Legal Pluralism and the Army: Legal Sociology as Military Sociology. in H Hydén, R Cotterrell, D Nelken & U Schultz (eds), Combining the Legal and the Social in Sociology of Law: An Homage to Reza Banakar. 1 edn, Oñati International Series in Law and Society, Hart Publishing, Oxford, pp. 93-109. <>

Thornhill, C 2023, Luhmann and Constitutional Sociology: Law and Functional Differentiation Revisited. in R Rogowski (ed.), The Anthem Companion to Niklas Luhmann. Anthem Companions to Sociology, Anthem Press, London. <>

Thornhill, C 2023, Teaching the Political Sociology of Law. in W Outhwaite & L Ray (eds), Teaching Political Sociology. Elgar Guides to Teaching, Edward Elgar Publishing Ltd., Cheltenham, UK, pp. 149-171.

Thornhill, C 2023, The Weimar Constitution as a Military Constitution. in GF Fonseca, MALLD Barros & LF Amato (eds), Contemporary Socio-Legal Studies: empirical and global perspectives. 1 edn, University of São Paulo Law School, São Paulo, pp. 177-214.

Thornhill, C 2022, Democracies without War: Effects of War as a Determinant of Populism. in C Barbosa Gouvêa, P Villas Bôas & IM Bezerra Costa (eds), Estado de de Exceção, Populismos e a Militarização da Política na pandemia da COVID-19: State of Exception. Populism and the Militarization of Politics in the COVID-19 Pandemic in Brazil. Editora Letramento, Recife, pp. 89-112. <>

Thornhill, C 2022, The Limits of Historicism: Karl Jaspers, Wilhelm Dilthey and Georg Simmel. in H Joas & M Bormuth (eds), Anthem Companion to Karl Jaspers. Anthem Press.

Thornhill, C 2021, The Rise of the Occupation Constitution. in GZ Capaldo (ed.), The Global Community Yearbook of International Law and Jurisprudence 2020. The Global Community: yearbook of international law and jurisprudence, Oxford University Press, pp. 79-114.

Thornhill, C 2021, Transnational Constitutional Law. in P Zumbansen (ed.), Oxford Handbook of Transnational Law. 1 edn, Oxford Handbooks, Oxford University Press, pp. 135-156.

Entry for encyclopedia/dictionary

Thornhill, C 2023, Constitutionalism: Sociology of. in M Sellers & S Kirste (eds), Encyclopedia of the Philosophy of Law and Social Philosophy. 1 edn, Springer, pp. 583-590.

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