The Comparative Constitutions Project (CCP) is an ongoing data collection project directed by Zachary Elkins (University of Texas at Austin), Tom Ginsburg (University of Chicago Law School), and James Melton (University College London). The goal of the project is to catalogue the content of all constitutions written in independent states from 1789 to the present. While the data collected by the project will be useful to answer a wide range of research questions by scholars throughout the social sciences and humanities, the motivation for starting the CCP was fourfold:
- Understand the origins and spread of constitutional provisions
- Analyse the stability of constitutions
- Investigate the efficacy of constitutional provisions
- Inform constitutional design
The principal investigators of the CCP have already written on several of these topics. In The Endurance of National Constitutions, they found that the average constitution lasts a mere 19 years and that design factors (e.g. a constitution’s flexibility, inclusiveness, and level of detail) affect its endurance. More recently, they have been investigating the origins, spread, and efficacy of constitutional rights.
In addition to promoting academic research on formal constitutions, the CCP is also meant as a resource for constitutional drafters. To facilitate use by drafters, the CCP has teamed up with Google Ideas to produce Constitute. Constitute allows anyone with an internet connection to search the world’s constitutions by topic. The hope is that searching constitutions by topic will empower domestic actors involved in constitutional change by allowing them easily to compare how a wide range of topics are addressed in constitutions written all over the world.
The CCP is grateful for funding from the Cline Center for Democracy, the National Science Foundation (SES #0648288), the United States Institute for Peace, the University of Chicago Law School, the University of Illinois College of Law, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and the University of Texas at Austin. The CCP team is also grateful to the Indigo Trust for their critical financial support of Constitute.
Elkins, Zachary, Tom Ginsburg, and James
Melton. The Endurance of National Constitutions. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. (Oct 2009)
Melton, James, Zachary Elkins, and Tom Ginsburg. 2013. “On the Interpretability of Law: Lessons from the Decoding of National Constitutions.” British Journal of Political Science. 43.2: 399-423.
Elkins, Zachary, Tom Ginsburg, and James Melton. 2012. “Comments on Law and Versteeg, The Declining Influence of the U.S. Constitution.” NYU Law Review. 87.6: 2088-2101.
Ginsburg, Tom, James Melton, and Zachary Elkins. 2011. “On the Evasion of Executive Term Limits.” William & Mary Law Review. 52.6: 1807-1872.
Elkins, Zachary, Tom Ginsburg, and James Melton. 2008. “Baghdad, Tokyo, Kabul,…: Constitution Making in Occupied States.” William & Mary Law Review. 49: 1139-1178.
Ginsburg, Tom, Zachary Elkins, and James Melton. 2012. “Do Executive Term Limits Cause Constitutional Crises?” Comparative Constitutional Design. Ed. Tom Ginsburg. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 350-380.
Other Publications and Reports
Elkins, Zachary, Tom Ginsburg, and James Melton. 2013. “U.S. Gun Rights Are Truly American Exceptionalism.” Bloomberg View.
Elkins, Zachary, Tom Ginsburg, and James Melton. 2012. “A Review of Iceland’s Draft Constitution.” .
For information on important constitutional events occurring outside the U.K., check out the “International” section of the most recent Monitor.
Data collection for the Comparative Constitutions Project (CCP) is divided into three individual projects:
Chronology of Constitutional Events
The first project is to create a chronology of constitutional events. The chronology is the backbone of the project because it identifies all of the constitutional texts that need to be found and coded. As such, each event in the repository has been verified by two individuals, typically two (or more) independent sources. Since 1789, there have been approximately 750 new constitutions and nearly 2400 constitutional amendments written in independent states throughout the world. All of these are recorded in the CCP’s chronology.
Repository of Constitutional Texts
The second project aims to find the text of each constitutional event. Constitutional texts for most events in our chronology come from three sources: the Constitutions of the World collection created by Amos Peaslee, the Constitutions of the Countries of the World collection created by Gisbert Flanz and Albert Blaustein, and the Constitutions of the Countries of the World 1776-Present by Horst Dippel. In addition, we used regional and country-specific sources for texts not included in the three aforementioned sources. All constitutional texts are available in searchable PDF format and many are available for free through the CCP’s online repository. The repository contains more than 3,000 constitutional texts, most of which are either original English language texts or have been translated into English.
Content Analysis of Constitutional Texts
The third project seeks to code each constitutional text on a 669 question survey instrument. The survey instrument asks questions about all aspects of the modern constitution from the structure of the text to the distribution of institutional power to the protection of human rights. Given the complexity of national constitutions, each text is coded by two individuals and a third individual reconciles the discrepancies between the two codings. We are continuously coding more constitutions and constitutional amendments. At present, we have released data for all constitutions in effect in 2006, but we have some data available about the in force constitution for more than 90% of the new or amended constitutions in our sample.
The CCP is currently working to integrate the three individual data collection projects into a single product: Constitute. Constitute is aimed at providing topic-based searches of constitutional texts, which allows users to easily compare how constitutions written in different countries address a wide variety of topics. Constitute is a collaboration between the CCP and Google Ideas, with critical financial support from the Indigo Trust.