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

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?

The Irish Times
Please subscribe or sign in to continue reading.
The Irish Times

How can I keep reading?

You’ve reached an article that is only available to Irish Times subscribers.

Subscribe today and get the full picture for just €1 for the first month.

Subscribe No obligation, cancel any time.