The Soul of Europe

Plalza de España in Cadiz. The monument commemorates the liberal and modern constitution adpoted by the Spanish Cortes on March 12, 1812. Photo: Wikipedia.

Karl Heinrich Ludwig Pölitz, a German scholar, published the ‘Constitutions of the European States during the preceding 25 years’  in 1825 (Constitutionen der europäischen Staaten seit den letzten 25 Jahren in the original German text). The first edition consisted of 4 volumes and 340 documents, to be enlarged and updated in 1833. The timing was based on historical circumstances. In 1776 the first modern declaration of rights and constitutions appeared in the revolting British colonies on the other side of the Ocean. Modern constitutionalism was born in the United States.

Throughout Europe, in particular in France, Germany, the United Provinces of the Netherlands, The Swiss Confederation and The United Kingdom, constitutionalism was in the centre of attention. The revolutionary Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen of 26 August 1789 introduced modern constitutionalism in Europe. European constitutional history goes back to ancient Greek city states, republican and imperial Rome, the Magna Carta (1215) in England, the goldene Bulle (Golden Bull, 1356) and the Reichstag in Worms (1495) in the Holy Roman Empire, the Union of Utrecht (1579) and many other constitutional texts.

Waves of constitutional crises, debates, modernization and concepts swept throughout Europe in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. 1814, 1830, 1848, 1871, 1918, 1945, 1948, 1950, 1989, 1991, 2008 are just a few dates, for the better and for the worse. They represent moments of important constitutional changes in monarchies and republics all over Europe. Each country has a constitutional history and stories to tell. Hundreds of constitutions have been written since 1789.