AHA Today

Happy Birthday to the US Constitution!

Vanessa Varin | Sep 17, 2013

Interested in find out more about this great document? Check out our Constitution Series:

New Essays on American Constitutional History New Essays on American Constitutional History. The current pamphlets in this series are well suited for use on Constitution Day, and include:

  • The War Power: Original and Contemporary , by Louis Fisher. The original conception of “war powers,” as defined in the Constitution by the new American republic, was a power not vested in the U.S. president, but in the people, who through regular elections expected Congress to make the ultimate decision on taking the nation to war against another country. This pamplet examines this history of the war powers and how this conception has changed over the past two hundred years.


  • Women and the U.S. Constitution: 1776-1920, by Jean H. Baker. In the drafting of the U.S. Constitution, gender was a non-issue. Women played no role in the authorship of either the original 1787 document or the Bill of Rights, and were largely excluded from the Constitution’s application. As a result, American women played a peripheral role in constitutional history until 1920. This pamphlet looks at this role as it developed throughout the nineteenth-century, culminating in 1920 with the passing of the women’s sufferage amendment in 1920.


  • The Rights Revolution in the Twentieth Century, by Mark Tushnet. Tushnet traces the concept of legal “rights” through the 20th century–from their origins in classical liberalism, fashioned in legislatures and emphasizing choice and contract, to notions of personal autonomy and equality protected by the judicial system.


  • Federalism across the Nineteenth Century, 1787–1905, by James W. Ely Jr.. In this fascinating study, Ely examines the legal history of Federalism from its inception in the early American Republic as an abstract and limited concept, throughout its development in the nineteenth century into a more tangible and ubiquitous presence in the daily lives of average Americans.


  • Federalism across the Nineteenth Century, 1787–1905, by Paul Finkelman. Finkelman surveys the history of legal definitions of “race” in the United States, as it developed out of the Constitutional definition of “slavery” in the late eighteenth-century, and became a concept unto itself following the passage of the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments in the late nineteenth century.


  • Religion, Morality, and the Constitutional Order by Linda Przybyszewski. Historically, debates over the meaning of religious liberty in the United States has taken place largely at the local level. Linda Przybyszewski examines the origins of this sociopolitical custom and how it changed in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries as the Supreme Court opened the door to federal challenges to local religious interpretations of the First Amendment.


The essays within these pamphlets and are intended to provide both students and teachers with brief, accessible, and reliable introductions to some of the most important aspects of American constitutional development and reflect the leading scholarship in the field and address topics that are classic, timely, and always important.

This post first appeared on AHA Today.

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