From War to Constitution—and the Problem of England

Who decides how we’re governed? What can’t a government do? And who gets to vote – or who doesn’t? And where is it all written down? In a constitution, of course. At the end of the 18th century, in a time of war and revolution, a spate of constitution-writing broke out across the globe. They put limits on government, and gave citizens – mostly men, and very often white men – rights as well as duties. But why? What inspired their authors – and why did even some kings and emperors think them necessary? And why on earth doesn’t Britain, almost alone among nations, have one?

James Butler is joined by Linda Colley, Professor of History at Princeton, to explore the explosion of modern constitutionalism in a trip taking in Russia, France, Haiti – and asking, if Scotland goes, will England finally have to codify its constitution? And might that not be good for all of us?

Linda Colley’s book on the making of modern constitutions, The Gun, The Ship and The Pen is available now from Profile Books.

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