November 18: Linda Colley: “WordPower: Written Constitutions and British Worlds”

The proliferation of new written constitutions after 1787 presented British governments with both opportunities and challenges. By way of its empire and international heft – and increasingly in order to compete with the US – the UK came to draft and influence more constitutions in more parts of the world than any other power. But its official classes have always resisted the introduction of a written constitution in the UK itself. Other peoples might need their political systems set down in writing, it was often argued. Britain did not: and its uncodified constitution was thus a demonstration of its distinctiveness. In this presentation to the Washington History Seminar, Linda Colley explored these trends and tensions over time and discussed how far writing a constitution might now usefully reconfigure the UK.

Linda Colley is Shelby M.C. Davis 1958 Professor of History at Princeton University and a Fellow of the British Academy. Her books include Britons: Forging the Nation 1707-1837 (1992) which won the Wolfson prize; Captives: Britain, Empire and the World, 1600-1850 (2002); and The Ordeal of Elizabeth Marsh: A Woman in Global History, named by the New York Times as one of the ten best books of 2007.

Report from the Field: To be announced

The Washington History Seminar is a joint venture of the Wilson Center and the National History Center of the American Historical Association.

A webcast and podcast will be available here after the presentation.