What We Are Reading Today: A World on the Wing by Scott Weidensaul

Over the last several years, citizens of the West have learned that they can no longer take democracy for granted, and the result has been an explosion of studies re-examining democracy’s foundations.

Linda Colley’s new book, The Gun, the Ship, and the Pen, is a helpful contribution to this growing field.

An eminent historian of Britain, Colley focuses on one critical component of democracy — constitutions.Democracy, Colley points out, requires defining and demarcating the rules and principles of governing authority.

“Although Colley’s discussion of precisely how warfare precipitated constitutional development is somewhat unsystematic, she does lay out some important connections between warfare and constitutional development,” Sheri Berman says in a review for The New York Times.

The Gun, the Ship, and the Pen “stresses that constitution-makers in non-Western places did not merely copy existing constitutions but rather adapted them to their own region’s particular needs.”

Colley both reappraises famous constitutions and recovers those that have been marginalized but were central to the rise of a modern world.


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