Call for Papers – “Constitutions and Crises” Conference Faculty of History, University of Cambridge

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Date / time
10/03/2022 - 11/03/2022, All day

The University of Cambridge will be hosting a conference exploring the topic of “Constitutions and Crises” in historical perspective, to be held in person at Leckhampton, Cambridge, on 10-11 March 2022. The organising committee of the conference is looking for proposals from early-career researchers and doctoral students for papers about the interaction between constitutions (broadly defined) and crises—whether economic, medical, political, social or cultural in nature. The guest of honour at the conference will be Linda Colley, who has recently published The Gun, the Ship and the Pen: Warfare, Constitutions and the Making of the Modern World (Profile Books, 2021). The conference is being generously supported by the University of Cambridge’s Seminar in Modern Irish History, the Brian Lenihan Memorial Fund of Sidney Sussex College, and Corpus Christi College, which will be hosting the conference at Leckhampton, its graduate site. If covid-19 restrictions do not allow for the conference to be held in person, the conference will take place in a hybrid or online format.

The covid-19 pandemic has prompted much constitutional soul-searching in the West over the past two years. Some autocratic regimes in Asia are perceived to have managed the covid-19 pandemic more successfully than their liberal democratic counterparts in the West. Meanwhile, since the financial crisis, liberal democratic norms have come under attack from populism across the world, while the Chinese government has become increasing assertive in projecting its autocratic style of governance as an alternative constitutional system across the Global South. Many commentators during the pandemic have rushed to make assessments about the robustness of different constitutional systems when put under pressure long before the dust kicked up by covid-19 has settled. However, many of those assessments have soon been overtaken by events, particularly as many countries that coped well with the first wave of infections have not done as well during subsequent ones.


This conference, held in the 100th anniversary year of the composition of new constitutions in Finland, Ireland, Nigeria, Mandatory Palestine and the USSR, seeks to examine, in historical perspective, the relationship between collective identity, crises and constitution making. How have previous crises, or the perceived lessons from previous crises, influenced the creation or development of constitutions? How have crises affected the interpretation of constitutions? Have particular constitutions helped to create, or worsen, crises in the past? And how have particular constitutions or constitutional systems coped with disruptions and other crises not necessarily of their making? We hope that the papers to be presented at this conference can add some historical perspective to contemporary discussion of constitutional systems.

Papers covering any period or geography, and which are related to the conference’s broad theme, are welcome. To apply to present at this conference, please email an abstract of no more than 300 words, along with your contact details and a short biography of the author(s). The deadline for submissions is the end of 21 January 2022. Those chosen to give a paper will be informed by the end of January. Proposals for individual papers as well as for panels with up to three different speakers are welcome. Proposals for poster sessions are equally welcome. Any questions should be sent to the chair of the organising committee, Dr Charles Read.