Linda ColleyMay 26, 2021
The Gun, the Ship, and the Pen
Warfare, Constitutions, and the Making of the Modern World
Linda Colley is a luminary in the fields of British and imperial history, and the Shelby M. C. Davis 1958 Professor of History at Princeton University. Her captivating new book The Gun, the Ship, and the Pen: Warfare, Constitutions, and the Making of the Modern World (Liveright, 2021) narrates a sweeping global history of written constitutions from the 18th to the 21st century. Bold, imaginative, and strikingly original, it challenges established accounts and uncovers the close connection between constitution-making and warfare. Colley brings to the fore historiographically neglected sites and actors, from Catherine the Great to Sierra Leone's James Africanus Beale Horton and Tunisia's soldier-constitutionalist Khayr-al-Din. The monograph focuses on the myriad ways in which constitutions crossed boundaries and intersected with wider political, cultural, and socioeconomic forces in all corners of the globe. By displaying both the emancipatory and the repressive effects of modern constitutions, The Gun, the Ship, and the Pen retells the serpentine story of successful and failed attempts to redefine the functions and limits of state governments.
Vladislav Lilic is a doctoral candidate in Modern European History at Vanderbilt University.