Professor Linda Colley FBA
Shelby M C Davis 1958 Professor of History
Why do constitutions matter?
5.30pm and 7pm, Tuesday 28 June 2016
From c.1750, new written constitutions increasingly spread around the globe. But why exactly did this happen, and why and how did these documents come to be so widely regarded as essential identity markers for modern states? The conventional answer is that constitutions naturally proliferated along with democracy. Yet these texts were already spreading into every continent long before most men and women won the vote. Instead, Linda Colley argues, constitutions can usefully be approached as a branch of literature, and their gradual spread needs to be understood in relation to the incidence and impact of war and the expanding influence of print. Looking at these instruments in this broader fashion helps to explain why the United Kingdom itself currently possesses no written constitution – and why one or all of its component parts may well seek to secure such a document in the future.