... 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.
... brilliant ... In this compelling study of constitutions produced around the world between the mid-18th century and the outbreak of the first world war, [Colley] upends the familiar version of history at every turn ... There is much more going on here than a level-headed reassessment of the realpolitik that sits behind the evolution of liberalism and democracy. By weaving together warfare and 'lawfare', The Gun, the Ship and the Pen draws attention to a perennial problem in the study of citizenship: who is in, and who is left out ... As with all great history books, the big picture is here, but so is the telling detail, the astute comparison, the arresting and memorable turn of phrase, the suggestive moral for our own times. There are some amazing discoveries ... Fresh insights are suggested for pivotal moments ... A superb retelling of the past, The Gun, the Ship and the Pen will surely make us rethink our present and future.
... 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.