512 pages, Integrated pictures
Starting not with the United States, but with the Corsican constitution of 1755, The Gun, the Ship, and the Pen moves through every continent, disrupting accepted narratives. Both monarchs and radicals play a role, from Catherine the Great of Russia, with her remarkable Nakaz, to Sierra Leone's James Africanus Horton, to Tunisia's Khayr-al-Din, a creator of the first modern Islamic constitution. Throughout, Colley demonstrates how constitutions evolved in tandem with warfare, and how they have functioned to advance empire as well as promote nations, and worked to exclude as well as liberate.
Whether reinterpreting Japan's momentous 1889 constitution, or exploring the significance of the first constitution to enfranchise all adult women on Pitcairn Island in the Pacific in 1838, this is one of the most original global histories in decades.