The Comparative Constitutions Project
The Comparative Constitutions Project (CCP) is a major, long-term effort to extract and quantify information from written constitutions. It captures, in a rigorous and systematic manner, differences in the formal structures that govern nations, and details how and when those structures change.
Its scope is formidable. It examines constitutions for every country in the world since 1789, including their amendments. Moreover, the CCP captures information on a wide range of constitutional matters: governmental structure and powers, federalism, individual rights and liberties, amendment procedures, and much more. Because of its scope, the CCP provides unparalleled insights into the economic, legal, and political structures of virtually every nation in modern history.
Design and Implementation of CCP
The CCP was conceived, initiated, and designed by Zachary Elkins and Thomas Ginsburg in 2005, while they were faculty members at the University of Illinois. James Melton, a graduate student involved from the outset, joined them as a Principal Investigator in 2006.
Together, they launched the project and divided the research into three concurrent phases: 1) the construction of a complete chronology of constitutional events for all independent states, 2) the acquisition of English-language texts for each of the constitutional events, and 3) the systematic coding of the information contained in each document.
The Resulting Data
Over the course of the ensuing decade, the group collected and analyzed thousands of constitutional texts. In 2009, Elkins, Ginsburg, and Melton published an award-winning book, The Endurance of National Constitutions (Cambridge University Press, 2010), which uses CCP data to investigate the causes of constitutional endurance from an institutional perspective.
The CCP continues to collect and code constitutional texts, and regularly releases their data to the public. In 2013, the CCP partnered with Google Ideas to launch Constitute, a website that uses CCP texts and data to make constitutional analysis easy and accessible for anyone with an internet connection.
CCP and the Cline Center
The Cline Center has provided instrumental funding, housing, and technical/administrative support to the CCP since its inception. The use of the Center's scanning and digitization facilities - one of the Center's many contributions - was instrumental in transforming print and microform texts into electronic documents for efficient processing. Additionally, the Center's custom-built web tools provided the framework for the CCP's coding survey and text repository, which have been critical to the overall success of the project.
Although Elkins (University of Texas at Austin), Ginsburg (University of Chicago), and Melton have each departed from the U of I, the Cline Center continues to support the CCP with both physical and digital resources, and the CCP's raw data continues to reside in the Center's data warehouse where it can be easily integrated with other Cline Center data.
To learn more about the CCP, visit their website: www.comparativeconstitutionsproject.org.