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A constitution is the founding document of a country, enshrining those values and principles most important to a government and its citizens at a particular moment in time. In the US, we are taught the basics of our constitution from an early age, but grow up knowing little to nothing about the documents that ground other societies.
A new project called Constitute wants to change that. An extension of the Comparative Constitutions Project, which aims “to investigate the sources and consequences of constitutional choices,” Constitute is a strikingly clean and intuitive portal for analyzing the world’s constitutions. The project is financially supported by Google Ideas, among other benefactors, and should be a boon to students of comparative constitutional law everywhere.
“New constitutions are written every year,” says the Constitute website. “The people who write these important documents need to read an analyze texts from other places.” To that end, anyone with interest can read, search, and compare the constitutions of most of the world’s countries.
Visitors can search for specific constitutions by year or by place. But if you want to dig deeper into the finer details of each document, or if you need to find something specific very quickly, Constitute also offers the option to browse by topic. There are over 300 topics available to choose from, ranging from the administrative to the cultural. Did you ever want to learn about how different countries approach indigenous representation? Or would you love to see a spread of how different constitutions reference God and other deities? All that and more can be explored via Constitute.
The rub? Constitutions should not be taken at face value. It’s worthwhile to remember that when everything else is boiled down, a constitution is a document that has been written and edited by those in power. Keep that in mind as you peruse these texts because a constitution is just as important for what it doesn’t say as for what it does.