Constantine v Imperial Hotels Ltd

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Constantine v Imperial Hotels Ltd
Learie Constantine.jpg
Citation(s) [1944] KB 693
Case opinions
Birkett J
Racial discrimination, innkeeper's duty of hospitality

Constantine v Imperial Hotels Ltd [1944] KB 693 is an English contract law case, concerning the implied duty of an innkeeper to accept accommodation to a guest unless for just cause.


In 1943, Learie Constantine, a professional cricketer for the West Indies, travelled to London to play for the Dominions team against an England XI at Lord's. He and his family had a reservation to stay at the Imperial Hotel in Russell Square, London. He was reassured that he and his family were welcomed and would be treated with the utmost respect. When they arrived at the Imperial Hotel, they were informed they could stay one night and no more, on account of complaints about their presence made by white United States military servicemen who were also staying at the hotel.

They were treated as outcasts, and Constantine was outraged. Constantine claimed the hotel was in breach of contract. There was no statute that expressly outlawed racial discrimination in Britain,[1] unless the common law provided a remedy. Constantine claimed that the hotel breached the implied term, deriving from common law principle, that innkeepers must not refuse accommodation to guests without just cause.


Mr Justice Birkett held that a right of Constantine had been violated. It was accepted that an innkeeper had a duty to provide reasonable accommodation, and rejected that when the hotel offered to put Constantine at another lodge, this was fulfilling that duty. Furthermore, even though no pecuniary damage transpired, the violation of the right was in principle capable of conferring a remedy. He was awarded a small sum of five guineas in damages.


The ruling did not end the colour bar in some British hotels and other public establishments. Constantine later wrote Colour Bar (1954). The book dealt with racial prejudice in Britain. In 1947, Constantine was appointed as a Member of the Order of the British Empire. Racial discrimination was more fully abolished with the passage of the Race Relations Act 1965.

Cartoonist David Low drew one of his more famous cartoons attacking the hotel's treatment of Learie Constantine.[19]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Lord Leary Constantine". Retrieved 2008-01-17. 
  2. ^ 1920 S.C. 805, 812.
  3. ^ 8 M. & W. 269.
  4. ^ (1558) 2 Dyer 158, b.
  5. ^ 1 Car. & Kir. 404.
  6. ^ (1899) 63 J. P. 233.
  7. ^ 2 Ld. Raym. 938; 3 Ld. Raym. 320; Smith's Leading Cases (13th ed.), vol. I, 253; Howell's State Trials, vol. XIV, 695.
  8. ^ [1916] 2 A. C. 481.
  9. ^ [1916] 2 A. C. 506
  10. ^ [1916] 2 A.C. 487.
  11. ^ (1698) 1 Ld. Raym. 374.
  12. ^ (1883) 11 Q. B. D. 674, 689
  13. ^ [1919] A. C. 368.
  14. ^ (1830) 1 B. and Ad. 415.
  15. ^ 6 Ex. 353.
  16. ^ 55. (1838) 3 Sumner Rep. 189.
  17. ^ 1920 S. C. 805.
  18. ^ [1902] 1 K. B. 696.
  19. ^ "Imperial welcome". Retrieved 2011-01-24.