Washington History Seminar
Historical Perspectives on International and National Affairs

WordPower: Written Constitutions and British Worlds

Linda Colley

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 will explore these trends and tensions over time, and discuss 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: U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel Timothy Washington, Department of Defense 60th Anniversary of the Korean War Commemoration Committee

Monday, November 4, 2013
4:00 p.m.
Woodrow Wilson Center, 6th Floor Moynihan Board Room
Ronald Reagan Building, Federal Triangle Metro Stop

Reservations requested because of limited seating:
mbarber@historians.org or 202-450-3209

Sponsored jointly by the National History Center of the American Historical Association and the Wilson Center, the seminar meets weekly during the academic year. See www.nationalhistorycenter.org for the schedule, speakers, topics, and dates as well as videos and podcasts.  The seminar is grateful for support given by the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations.



  • Linda Colley

    Shelby M.C. Davis Professor of History, Princeton University