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Center for Constitutional Studies and Democratic Development | Research | Constitutional History: Comparative Perspectives

Constitutional History: Comparative Perspectives

Sponsored by: University of Illinois College of Law, University of Bologna School of Law, Center for Constitutional Studies and Democratic Development, Accademia delle Scienze dell’Istituto di Bologna

Accompanying the spread of constitutional government around the world has been a profound interest in the comparative aspects of constitutional law. Scholars have catalogued the differing features of national constitutions and examined how different constitutional systems resolve common legal issues. So, too, judges faced with legal questions have sought guidance in the decisions of constitutional courts of other nations. While comparative constitutional law is therefore a well-established field, less attention has been paid so far to the comparative dimensions of constitutional history. The Illinois-Bologna Conference aims to address that shortcoming by energizing the study and analysis of constitutional history from comparative perspectives. The Conference has several interrelated goals. It will provide a forum for presentation and discussion of current research on issues of constitutional history that crosses national boundaries. Relevant topics in this regard include such things as the origins of constitutional governments in different nations, changes in constitutional structures over time, comparative studies of the shifting roles of constitutional actors, the development of individual rights in different systems, and the legitimacy and longevity of constitutions in various nations. The Conference will also bring together scholars who, at present, are working on constitutional histories of single jurisdictions—with the expectation that conversations among these scholars will allow for sharing of methodologies and point also to fresh areas of research that may transcend national boundaries. In addition, the Conference has relevance to the task of judging. In some nations, notably the United States, constitutional history plays an important and sometimes decisive role in the resolution by courts of questions of constitutional law. The Conference will take up the place of constitutional history in constitutional adjudication. By comparing the practices of courts around the world, the conference will trace the movement (or not) of constitutional history from the academy to the courthouse and examine the risks and benefits of modern practices.

The third Annual Illinois-Bologna Conference on Constitutional History: Comparative Perspectives will be held in Bologna, Italy, on November 13 and 14, 2017. The conference keynote speaker will be Gonçalo Manoel de Vilhena de Almeida Ribeiro, Justice of the Constitutional Court of Portugal.

Past Conferences:

The second Illinois-Bologna Conference was held in Chicago, Illinois, on April 12 and 13, 2016. The conference keynote speaker was Rosalie Silberman Abella, Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada. The program of the conference can be found here. The papers presented at the conference were published in the University of Illinois Law Review, vol. 2017, no. 2.

The first Illinois-Bologna Conference was held in Bologna, Italy, on October 6 and 7, 2014. The conference keynote speaker was Daphne Barak-Erez, Justice of the Supreme Court of Israel. The program of the conference can be found here.


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