Article

Constitutions

Max Edling

in Atlantic History

ISBN: 9780199730414
Published online August 2011 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780199730414-0014
Constitutions

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  • History of the Americas
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The age of Atlantic revolutions was also an age of constitution making. From Chile to Russia, from Norway to Malta, political reformers were everywhere busy writing new constitutions. An incomplete list includes more than six hundred constitutional propositions put forward by political reformers in the half century between 1775 and 1825. Yet it is only in the United States that constitutions have become an important field of historical investigation. As a result, the literature on constitutional history in the age of revolution is almost exclusively devoted to constitutional developments in the United States and the American colonies. Elsewhere, constitutional history is a dormant field. Robert Palmer placed constitutional developments at the center of his Age of Democratic Revolution, a work that was crucial to the evolution of Atlantic history, and there is no question that there was much exchange of constitutional documents around the Atlantic rim. Yet as a subfield of historical scholarship, Atlantic constitutional history can hardly be said to exist. One reason may be that the dividends from such investigations are difficult to determine. The adoption of a constitution says little about the evolution of constitutionalism, that is, the principle that legitimate political action is bounded by constitutional law. In most countries other than the United States, constitutionalism was established only long after the period that is conventionally covered by Atlantic history. Nevertheless, it is possible to perceive three fields of constitutional history that have a bearing on Atlantic history: Imperial history, the international history of the American founding, and the influence of U.S. constitutional principles abroad. This bibliography does not aim to furnish the means for comparative constitutional history; instead it provides an introduction to these three areas of inquiry and to the enormous literature on U.S. constitutional history.

Article.  8785 words. 

Subjects: History of the Americas ; European History ; African History ; History ; Regional and National History

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