Project shines spotlight on constitutions around the world

A project to put all of the world’s constitutions online in one location has drawn the attention of Google and a lot of people interested in tracking global trends.

constituteThe new website, called Constitute, is at https://www.constituteproject.org, and it literally collects constitutions from A (as in Afghanistan) to Z (as in Zimbabwe), in an easy-to-access form that is text searchable and viewable by subject.

The project’s editors have more than 300 topics listed and tagged in the constitutions.

So if you are curious about constitutions that mention the right to bear arms, you can just click on that topic and see what’s in the constitutions of five countries that define that right (Guatemala, Haiti, Iran, Mexico, and the United States).

There has been a definite growth in the number of countries that are creating and amending constitutions, so Constitute serves a need by making research into other nation’s constitutions that much easier.

“New constitutions are written every year. The people who write these important documents need to read and analyze texts from other places. Constitute offers access to the world’s constitutions that users can systematically compare them across a broad set of topics—using a modern, clean interface,” the project says in an explanation on its website.

A typical use of the Constitute website would be to research a regional topic. Users can select some or all of the countries in a major global region, say, to research amendments related to marriage. We found 13 nations that discussed marriage in the Americas region (North, Central, and South America) and 19 nations in Europe.

Another neat feature allows a user to clip, or pin, parts of different constitutions together in one PDF file that can be downloaded for future use.

Google supplied funding to the University of Texas at Austin, with additional financial support from the Indigo Trust and IC2. The university was also involved in designing and implementing the project online.

Three scholars at the Comparative Constitution Project, a separate program that played a key role in the Constitute project, also worked with the University of Illinois on the analysis and tagging of all that data and all the words that appear on the Constitute website.

The Comparative Constitution Project also has some very interesting data on its own site, based on its scholarly research, which ranks constitutions around the world on the strength (at least on paper) of its executive, legislative, and judicial branches.

The rankings also show the country with the longest constitution (India, with 146,385 words), the shortest (Jordan, with 2,270) and the oldest (the United States, followed by Norway and Belgium).

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