Linda Colley – What Does Printing A Constitution Do?


After 1750, the number of new written and printed constitutions expanded exponentially across territorial and maritime boundaries. Historians and legal scholars generally however examine this form of political technology only within the confines of individual states; while – for all their reliance on language and print – written constitutions rarely attract the attention of literary scholars.

In this lecture, Linda Colley explores how print so often shaped the format and content of constitutions as well as their transmission and trans-regional diffusion. She also touches on the challenges posed to these devices – now embedded in all but three of the world’s states – by the coming of a digital age.

Linda Colley, Shelby M.C. Davis 1958 Professor of History at Princeton University, is an expert on British, imperial and global history since 1700. Born in Britain, she graduated from Bristol University and completed her Ph.D. in history at Cambridge University. The first female fellow of Christ’s College, Cambridge, she moved to Yale University in 1982. After five years at the London School of Economics, Linda Colley joined Princeton University in 2003. Her latest book The Gun, the Ship, and the Pen: Warfare, Constitutions, and the Making of the Modern World appeared in March 2021. During the current academic year, Linda Colley is a fellow of the Wissenschaftskolleg.

Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin, November 14, 2021

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