Skip to main content

Burgess, Michael

Last Updated: 2022

Michael David Burgess (March 1, 1949 – February 4th, 2018) was a leading federal scholar working at Loughborough Technical College, Plymouth Polytechnic, Keele University, the University of Hull and the University of Kent (from 2005 until his retirement in 2014), where he served as Professor of Federal Studies and established and directed the Centre for Federal Studies. He was also active in the International Association of Centers for Federal Studies (IACFS), serving as its Vice-President between 2009 and 2014.

His work on federalism covers three important areas. First, he wrote extensively on federal theory. Two of his most important publications include Comparative Federalism -Theory and Practice (2006) and In Search of the Federal Spirit (2012). He developed the concepts of federalism and federation beyond the framework that authors such as Preston King and Daniel Elazar provided, and highlighted both their normativity and their empirical reality through the comparative study of a variety of federal cases.

Second, he was a well-known expert on the study of the European Union (EU) as a federal political system. His work on Federalism and European Union (2000) remains a widely cited text amongst scholars examining the European integration process as a framework of federal state-building and the formation of a new federal model.

Third, he was an expert on the British Tradition of Federalism. His book on the same topic was published in 1995, yet it was based on research already undertaken between 1973 and 1975 at the University of Leicester. He worked under the supervision of Murray Forsyth and Christopher Hughes during this time on his PhD thesis with the title “The Imperial Federation Movement in Great Britain, 1869-1893”. Based on this, he further elaborated how the United Kingdom, despite its hostility towards federalism (particularly in the EU), would become the most important sponsor of federalism abroad.


Michael Burgess, ed. Federalism and Federation in Western Europe (Beckenham: Croom Helm 1986); Michael Burgess and Alain-G. Gagnon, eds, Comparative Federalism and Federation: Competing Traditions and Future Directions (London: Harvester Wheatsheaf 1993); Michael Burgess, The British Tradition of Federalism (London: Cassell 1995); Michael Burgess, Federalism and European Union – The Building of Europe 1950-2000 (London and New York: Routledge 2000); Michael Burgess, Comparative Federalism – Theory and Practice (London and New York: Routledge 2006); Michael Burgess and John Pilger, eds. Multinational Federations (London and New York: Routledge 2007); Michael Burgess and Alain-G. Gagnon, eds. Federal Democracies (London and New York: Routledge 2010); Michael Burgess and G. Alan Tarr, eds. Constitutional Dynamics in Federal Systems: Comparative Perspectives (Montreal: Mc-Gill Queen’s University Press 2012); Michael Burgess, In Search of the Federal Spirit – New Theoretical and Empirical Perspectives in Comparative Federalism (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press 2012); Alain-G. Gagnon, Soeren Keil and Sean Mueller, eds. Understanding Federalism and Federation (Essays in Honour of Michael Burgess) (Farnham: Ashgate 2015).