Current frameworks for understanding the development of the CAP all suffer from having a static rather than a dynamic perspective. This paper considers whether the concept of path dependency can provide a corrective. However, the large majority of the empirical applications of the concept have been to institutional development at a macro, constitutional level rather than to specific public policies. This paper by defining the CAP as an institution and using the concept of path dependency is an attempt to test the boundary of the existing literature. The advantages and difficulties of the concept with regard to understanding the CAP are critically assessed. The main difficulty is extending explanations of path dependency to accommodate major CAP reforms. However, in certain cases, the mechanisms of feedback loops and cumulative consequences which derive from a path dependency approach can be useful for explaining significant shifts in policy direction. Overall, the conclusion is that the concept can enrich our understanding of the development of the CAP.