Vivid and magisterial, The Gun, the Ship, and the Pen reconfigures the rise of a modern world through the advent and spread of written constitutions.
A work of extraordinary range and striking originality, The Gun, the Ship, and the Pen traces the global history of written constitutions from the 1750s to the twentieth century, modifying accepted narratives and uncovering the close connections between the making of constitutions and the making of war. In the process, Linda Colley both reappraises famous constitutions and recovers those that have been marginalized but were central to the rise of a modern world.
She brings to the fore neglected sites, such as Corsica, with its pioneering constitution of 1755, and tiny Pitcairn Island in the Pacific, the first place on the globe permanently to enfranchise women. She highlights the role of unexpected players, such as Catherine the Great of Russia, who was experimenting with constitutional techniques with her enlightened Nakaz decades before the Founding Fathers framed the American constitution. Written constitutions are usually examined in relation to individual states, but Colley focuses on how they crossed boundaries, spreading into six continents by 1918 and aiding the rise of empires as well as nations. She also illumines their place not simply in law and politics but also in wider cultural histories, and their intimate connections with print, literary creativity, and the rise of the novel.
Colley shows how―while advancing epic revolutions and enfranchising white males―constitutions frequently served over the long nineteenth century to marginalize indigenous people, exclude women and people of color, and expropriate land. Simultaneously, though, she investigates how these devices were adapted by peoples and activists outside the West seeking to resist European and American power. She describes how Tunisia generated the first modern Islamic constitution in 1861, quickly suppressed, but an influence still on the Arab Spring; how Africanus Horton of Sierra Leone―inspired by the American Civil War―devised plans for self-governing nations in West Africa; and how Japan’s Meiji constitution of 1889 came to compete with Western constitutionalism as a model for Indian, Chinese, and Ottoman nationalists and reformers.
Vividly written and handsomely illustrated, The Gun, the Ship, and the Pen is an absorbing work that―with its pageant of formative wars, powerful leaders, visionary lawmakers and committed rebels―retells the story of constitutional government and the evolution of ideas of what it means to be modern.
80 black-and-white illustrations
A virtuoso global study of how nations were formed and constitutions written upends the familiar narrative at every turn ... As with all great history books, the big picture is here, but so is the telling detail, the astute comparison, the arresting and memorable turn of phrase, the suggestive moral for our own times. ... A superb retelling of the past, <i>The Gun, the Ship, and the Pen</i> will surely make us rethink our present and future -- Miles Taylor ― Guardian
Incandescent, paradigm-shifting ... Colley has upended much of what historians believe about the origins of written constitutions ... If there were a Nobel Prize in History, Colley would be my nominee -- Jill Lepore ― New Yorker
A wide-ranging, beautifully written global history ... Colley's narrative is rich, and she emphasizes the colorful characters who have contributed to constitution-making projects around the world ... Fascinating -- Tom Ginsburg ― Washington Post
Fascinating ... Most historians emphasise literacy and liberty, seeing constitutions as the product of high-minded, slightly bloodless political salons. Colley's approach is more imaginative [with] plenty of memorably colourful details ... A different, surprising twist on international history -- Dominic Sandbrook ― Sunday Times
Rarely is a history so satisfyingly broad in outlook while avoiding abstraction and generalisation. It is rich, enjoyable, enlightening and imaginative. Colley takes you on intellectual journeys you wouldn't think to take on your own, and when you arrive you wonder that you never did it before -- David Aaronovitch ― Times
Wildly ambitious, prodigiously researched ... The narrative ranges widely and fascinatingly across continents and prominent historical figures ... A sweeping, unique, truly world-spanning political and military history ― Kirkus Reviews
A book of stupendous range and originality, <i>The Gun, the Ship, and the Pen</i> delivers an ambitious new account of the making of the modern world. Linda Colley has an unparalleled ability to bring together the histories of ideas, politics, and people, and to distill prodigious learning into a narrative that is at once incisively argued and an immense pleasure to read. Rippling with fresh interpretations, startling connections, and remarkable stories, this is a masterpiece of global history by one of the greatest historians working today -- Maya Jasanoff, Harvard University
The purest crystallization of modern politics is the written constitution. Despite its lofty ideals, the document's many guises across the world repeatedly failed to meet their stated aspirations. Remarkable therefore are our centuries of persistent belief in constitutions. With her characteristic skill, erudition, and creativity, Linda Colley, one of our greatest historians, explains this seeming conundrum through a history of the durability of human hope, war, and political imagination. This is a monumentally important book -- Alan Mikhail, author of ― God’s Shadow: Sultan Selim, His Ottoman Empire, and the Making of the Modern World
A remarkable feat of scholarship on an international scale ... Impressive -- Jonathan Sumption ― Spectator
Linda Colley is a historian of her time; but she is also a completely original intelligence -- R. F. Foster
In this ambitious work, Linda Colley seeks to rethink the "long" nineteenth century through the prism of the many constitutions it produced. Written with characteristic vigor and clarity, her book shows the continued validity of "big picture" history in asking searching questions and providing unexpected answers -- Sanjay Subrahmanyam, author of ― Europe’s India, Words, People, Empires, 1500–1800
In this bold, lucid, and wide-ranging book, Linda Colley reveals the international dialogue that created our age of constitutions. She insightfully embeds the emergence of new modes of governance in the global interplay of mass literacy with mass warfare. Colley helps us understand the true origins and growing importance of constitutional government. -- Alan Taylor, author of ― Thomas Jefferson's Education
A marvelous tour with a brilliant guide through world history in search of the early adopters of written constitutions --a thoroughly enjoyable read! -- Mary Bilder, author of ― Madison’s Hand: Revising the Constitutional Convention
From the Mediterranean to Japan, a dazzling, beautifully-written and surprising tale to discover the deep connections between the transformations of modern warfare and the rise of constitutions across the globe. A must read. -- M’hamed Oualdi, Sciences Po, Paris
One of the most exciting historians of her generation, but also one of the most interesting writers of non-fiction around -- William Dalrymple ― Guardian
<b>Award-winning historian Linda Colley shows the dawn of the modern world - through the advance of written constitutions</b>
About the Author
<p>One of our most distinguished historians, Linda Colley is Shelby M.C.Davis 1958 Professor of History at Princeton and a Fellow of the British Academy. She has previously taught at Cambridge, Yale and LSE. Her earlier books include Wolfson Prize-winning <i>Britons: Forging the Nation 1707-1837</i>; <i>Captives: Britain, Empire and the World, 1600-1850 </i>and<i> The Ordeal of Elizabeth Marsh: A Woman in World History.</i><br><i>Acts of Union and Disunion</i> was a 15-part BBC Radio 4 series in January 2014.</p>