The Gun, the Ship and the Pen: Well-written contribution to global history
Book review: Linda Colley claims source of codified constitutions is locomotive of history
1787: Signing of the constitution of the United States. Photograph: MPI/Getty Images
Leon Trotsky maintained that war is the locomotive of history, but for Linda Colley, it is the source of codified constitutions. In The Gun, the Ship and the Pen, a well-written contribution to global history, she makes a strong case for a causal relationship between the costs of modern hybrid warfare – that is, having a navy as well as an army capable of joint deployment – and the world-wide diffusion of codified constitutions between circa 1750 and 1914-18.
She regularly dilutes the strong causal claim, however, with qualifying phrases such as “close connections”. Yet the claim drives the narrative. It is intended to attract the reader, which it does, but is it true?