... a helpful contribution to this growing field ... Although Colley’s discussion of precisely how warfare precipitated constitutional development is somewhat unsystematic, she does lay out some important connections between warfare and constitutional development ... Unfortunately, despite the geographical breadth of The Gun, the Ship, and the Pen, Colley fails to explain how constitutions changed across time and space ... Nonetheless, The Gun, the Ship, and the Pen has important lessons for anyone interested in political development today. One is the value of taking a long-term perspective when trying to understand contemporary events ... At a time when many are questioning the future of democracy, it is worth remembering how important and precious these things are.
... a marvel of erudition ... That might not sound an immediately appealing subject, but Colley uses her constitutions to explore war and diplomacy, mass literacy and high finance, imperial ambition and national identity ... Where did all these constitutions come from? Most historians emphasise literacy and liberty, seeing constitutions as the product of high-minded, slightly bloodless political salons. Colley’s approach is more imaginative ... All this might sound a bit esoteric, but Colley’s book has plenty of memorably colourful details ... fascinating.
Here [the topic of the British Constitution] is rescued, and rather gloriously, by Linda Colley, one of our most imaginative and relevant historians ... There are many stories and people in Colley’s book and these were just a few of them. Rarely is a history so satisfyingly broad in outlook while avoiding abstraction and generalisation. It is rich, enjoyable, enlightening and imaginative. Colley takes you on intellectual journeys you wouldn’t think to take on your own, and when you arrive you wonder that you never did it before.