Research Design

Phase II: The Repository of Constitutional Texts

The second phase of our project entailed acquiring English texts for every constitutional event. Thanks to the monumental efforts of several previous comparative constitutional scholars and resources at the University of Illinois library, we have acquired what appear to be reliable English translations for approximately 60% of the constitutional events in our sample, including approximately 75% of “new” events, and non-English texts for another 25% of the events. We continue to look for the remaining missing texts and commission translations of the texts that are not yet available in English. As of 2015, we have translated nearly 300 constitutional documents into English. See the information below for more details about our efforts to acquire constitutional texts.

Sources

We are indebted to two principal comparative sources for a majority of texts. Peaslee (1950-1974) and Flanz and Blaustein — and their successors Grote and Wolfrum – (1971-current) have compiled English translations of constitutions for an exhaustive set of countries. Both series are updated regularly and include notes and constitutional histories that were helpful in the construction of our sample.

These two sources, in combination with HeinOnline’s World Constitutions Illustrated, have provided us with a fairly inclusive series of constitutional texts for our sample.

Translation Issues

To be sure, utilizing English language sources is potentially problematic. Translation of constitutional concepts across legal cultures is fraught with difficulty. For example, the French “Conseil Constitutionel” plays some functions that are akin to those played by constitutional courts in other countries (abstract, pre-promulgation constitutional review of legislation), but has been characterized as quasi-legislative in character (Hofnung 1996; Shapiro and Stone Sweet 2002). We hope that a catalog of the various powers of constitutional institutions will help to elucidate these differences, but recognize that translation problems form an inherent challenge to our work. Despite these difficulties, we utilize English translations wherever available; in the event we cannot find an English version, we seek to have the original-language text coded by someone with native linguistic skills.


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