Dr James Melton
Dr James Melton
- Position: Lecturer in British and Comparative Politics
- Telephone:0207 679 4991
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
James Melton joined UCL in 2012. His expertise in cross-national constitution making strengthens the comparative aspect of the Constitution Unit’s research. James uses this expertise to understand the effect of constitutional text on economic, political, and social development. He contributes a regular column to the Monitor on “Worldwide Constitutional Developments” and feeds into the comparative dimensions of the Unit's research projects.
James's interest in comparative constitutional design stems from his involvement with the Comparative Constitutions Project (CCP). The CCP is an effort to investigate the sources and consequences of constitutional choices. Towards this end, James has worked with Zachary Elkins (Associate Professor, University of Texas at Austin) and Tom Ginsburg (Professor, University of Chicago Law School) since 2005 to catalogue the contents of all constitutions written in independent states since 1789. Through his involvement with the CCP, James has read dozens of constitutions, providing him with substantial knowledge of constitutions in a wide variety of countries.
Prior to his appointment at UCL, James was an Assistant Professor (2009-2012) at the IMT Institute for Advanced Studies in Lucca, Italy, and earned a Ph.D. (2009) from the Department of Political Science at the University of Illinois. He also holds an M.A. from the Department of Political Science at the University of Illinois and a B.A. from the Department of Political Science at Illinois Wesleyan University. James is formally trained in comparative politics with an emphasis on economic, political, and social development. He also has extensive training in political science research methods.
James Melton's research focuses on comparative constitutional design. His research explores the origins, stability, and enforcement of formal constitutional texts. He is particularly interested in whether and how the text of countries’ constitutions contributes to their economic, political, and social development.
James is perhaps best known for The Endurance of National Constitutions, which he co-authored with Zachary Elkins and Tom Ginsburg. The book argues that the design of constitutions affects their endurance, and presents both cross-national and case study evidence that flexible, inclusive, and specific constitutions live longer. The book won an award from the Comparative Democratization section of the American Political Science Association (APSA) in 2010 and an honorable mention for the William H. Riker award in 2011 from APSA's Political Economy section.
James has also written on occupation constitutions, executive term limits, the interpretability of constitutions, and the relationship between constitutional rights and countries’ rights practices. One of the consistent findings in this work is that the text of the constitution matters: a finding that challenges more than 200 years of scholarship which saw constitutions as mere parchment barriers. These works have appeared in outlets like the British Journal of Political Science, the NYU Law Review, and the William and Mary Law Review.
The Endurance of National Constitutions. (Cambridge University Press, 2009) – with Zachary Elkins and Tom Ginsburg
“Do Executive Term Limits Cause Constitutional Crises.” In Comparative Constitutional Design. (Cambridge University Press, 2012) – with Tom Ginsburg and Zachary Elkins
“Comments on Law and Versteeg, The Declining Influence of the U.S. Constitution.” (NYU Law Review, 2012) – with Tom Ginsburg and Zachary Elkins
"On the Interpretability of Law: Lessons from the Decoding of National Constitutions." (British Journal of Political Science, 2012) - with Zachary Elkins, Tom Ginsburg, and Kalev Leetaru
“On the Evasion of Executive Term Limits." (William and Mary Law Review, 2011) - with Zachary Elkins and Tom Ginsburg
“Baghdad, Tokyo, Kabul,...: Constitution Making in Occupied States." (William and Mary Law Review, 2008) – with Zachary Elkins and Tom Ginsburg
Do Constitutions Matter?: The Relationship between De Jure and De Facto Human Rights Protection.
The Content of Authoritarian Constitutions. – with Zachary Elkins and Tom Ginsburg
A Reevaluation of De Jure Explanations for Judicial Independence. – with Tom Ginsburg
James is responsible for teaching the following modules in the department:
PUBLG 107 – Comparative Judicial Politics (Master’s Module)
POLS 6011 – Introduction to Comparative Politics (Undergraduate Module)
Prior to joining UCL, James taught courses on political development, comparative constitutional design, comparative constitutional law, and research methods.