American Constitutionalism Heard Round the World, 1776-1989

A Global Perspective

564 pages

August, 2009

ISBN: 9780814791073



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George Athan Billias is Jacob and Frances Hiatt Professor Emeritus of History at Clark University. His numerous books include American Constitutionalism Abroad, George Washington’s Generals and Opponents, and Elbridge Gerry: Founding Father and Republican Statesman.

All books by George Athan Billias

Winner of the 2010 Book Award from the New England Historical Association

American constitutionalism represents this country’s greatest gift to human freedom, yet its story remains largely untold. For over two hundred years, its ideals, ideas, and institutions influenced different peoples in different lands at different times. American constitutionalism and the revolutionary republican documents on which it is based affected countless countries by helping them develop their own constitutional democracies. Western constitutionalism—of which America was a part along with Britain and France—reached a major turning point in global history in 1989, when the forces of democracy exceeded the forces of autocracy for the first time.

Historian George Athan Billias traces the spread of American constitutionalism—from Europe, Latin America, and the Caribbean region, to Asia and Africa—beginning chronologically with the American Revolution and the fateful "shot heard round the world" and ending with the conclusion of the Cold War in 1989. The American model contributed significantly by spearheading the drive to greater democracy throughout the Western world, and Billias’s landmark study tells a story that will change the way readers view the important role American constitutionalism played during this era.


  • American Constitutionalism Heard Round the World is an extraordinary work of synthesis.”

    —The Journal of American History

  • American Constitutionalism Heard Round the World is a fine work of scholarship....The descriptive chapters are invaluable... Billias’ work [is] an important addition to the literature on constitutionalism. It is invaluable for scholars interested in the migration of constitutional ideas. Billias’ argument that the Constitution needs to be placed within the context of the written constitutional documents of the founding era is illuminating.”

    —The Law and Politics Book Review

  • American Constitutionalism Heard Round the World is a comprehensive, thoughtful, and well-researched study, with 116 pages of endnotes.”

    —The Federal Lawyer

  • "A monumental study that is as carefully presented as it is compelling."

    —Gordon S. Wood, Alva O. Way University Professor Emeritus, Brown University

  • "Billias’s American Constitutionalism Heard Round the World is a monumental study—broad in scope and deep in learning. It will be the standard book on the subject of the influence of American Constitution outside of the United States, not simply because of its broad coverage, but also for its thoughtful insights and suggestive interpretations. It is a marvelous book."

    —Robert Middlekauff, Preston Hotchkis Professor of History, Emeritus, University of California, Berkeley

  • "A work on this scale is unlikely ever again to be undertaken by an individual author, let alone one with such authority and experience. American Constitutionalism Heard Round the World is a heroic endeavor whose results will be debated and plundered by generations of scholars to come, and whose impact on a wider audience may help to encourage a broader consciousness of America's more benign contributions to shaping the contemporary world."

    —David Armitage, author of The Declaration of Independence: A Global History