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Though the U.S. Constitution was ratified in 1788, its impact on our lives is as recent as today's news. Claims and counterclaims about the constitutionality of governmental actions are a habit of American politics. This document, which its framers designed to limit power, often has made political conflict inevitable. It also has accommodated and legitimized the political Though the U.S. Constitution was ratified in 1788, its impact on our lives is as recent as today's news. Claims and counterclaims about the constitutionality of governmental actions are a habit of American politics. This document, which its framers designed to limit power, often has made political conflict inevitable. It also has accommodated and legitimized the political and social changes of a vibrant, powerful democratic nation. A product of history's first modern revolution, the Constitution embraced a new formula for government: it restrained power on behalf of liberty, but it also granted power to promote and protect liberty. The U.S. Constitution: A Very Short Introduction explores the major themes that have shaped American constitutional history: federalism, the balance of powers, property, representation, equality, rights, and security. Informed by the latest scholarship, this book places constitutional history within the context of American political and social history. As our nation's circumstances have changed, so has our Constitution. Today we face serious challenges to the nation's constitutional legacy. Endless wars, a sharply divided electorate, economic inequality, and immigration, along with a host of other issues, have placed demands on government and on society that test our constitutional values. Understanding how the Constitution has evolved will help us adapt its principles to the challenges of our age. ABOUT THE SERIES: The Very Short Introductions series from Oxford University Press contains hundreds of titles in almost every subject area. These pocket-sized books are the perfect way to get ahead in a new subject quickly. Our expert authors combine facts, analysis, perspective, new ideas, and enthusiasm to make interesting and challenging topics highly readable.


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Though the U.S. Constitution was ratified in 1788, its impact on our lives is as recent as today's news. Claims and counterclaims about the constitutionality of governmental actions are a habit of American politics. This document, which its framers designed to limit power, often has made political conflict inevitable. It also has accommodated and legitimized the political Though the U.S. Constitution was ratified in 1788, its impact on our lives is as recent as today's news. Claims and counterclaims about the constitutionality of governmental actions are a habit of American politics. This document, which its framers designed to limit power, often has made political conflict inevitable. It also has accommodated and legitimized the political and social changes of a vibrant, powerful democratic nation. A product of history's first modern revolution, the Constitution embraced a new formula for government: it restrained power on behalf of liberty, but it also granted power to promote and protect liberty. The U.S. Constitution: A Very Short Introduction explores the major themes that have shaped American constitutional history: federalism, the balance of powers, property, representation, equality, rights, and security. Informed by the latest scholarship, this book places constitutional history within the context of American political and social history. As our nation's circumstances have changed, so has our Constitution. Today we face serious challenges to the nation's constitutional legacy. Endless wars, a sharply divided electorate, economic inequality, and immigration, along with a host of other issues, have placed demands on government and on society that test our constitutional values. Understanding how the Constitution has evolved will help us adapt its principles to the challenges of our age. ABOUT THE SERIES: The Very Short Introductions series from Oxford University Press contains hundreds of titles in almost every subject area. These pocket-sized books are the perfect way to get ahead in a new subject quickly. Our expert authors combine facts, analysis, perspective, new ideas, and enthusiasm to make interesting and challenging topics highly readable.

30 review for The U.S. Constitution: A Very Short Introduction

  1. 4 out of 5

    robin friedman

    The U.S. Constitution In The Very Short Introductions Series Reflection on the United States Constitution is always rewarding particularly in tumultuous times. David Bodenhamer's recent book, "The U.S. Constitution" in Oxford University Press' "Very Short Introductions" series offers a brief good overview of the Constitution and its significance. The director of the Polis Center at Indiana University and a professor of history, Bodenhamer has written extensively on American constitutional and leg The U.S. Constitution In The Very Short Introductions Series Reflection on the United States Constitution is always rewarding particularly in tumultuous times. David Bodenhamer's recent book, "The U.S. Constitution" in Oxford University Press' "Very Short Introductions" series offers a brief good overview of the Constitution and its significance. The director of the Polis Center at Indiana University and a professor of history, Bodenhamer has written extensively on American constitutional and legal history. This "very short introduction" covers a great deal of difficult material, both in terms of time and substance. As a unifying theme, Bodenhamer shows the tension in the Constitution and its interpretation between the protection of individual liberty on the one hand and the need for a strong government to protect liberty and to respond to a changing world on the other hand. Thus, Bodenhamer offers a whirlwind discussion of the events which led to the Constitutional Convention, to the compromises and divisions of power in the text of the original document, to the ratification convention, and the adoption of the Bill of Rights. It would be a great deal to cover even for a work many times longer than this book, and Bodenhamer's chapter is the least satisfactory part of this very short introduction. Then again, Bodenhamer devotes a chapter to Federalism and the divided government the Constitution created between the Federal and the State governments. He shows how this division has been constantly reinterpreted and readjusted during American history with a stress on the importance of the Civil War Amendments. The following chapter of the book addresses another broad structural issue in the Constitution by exploring the balance and separation of powers among the legislative, executive, and judicial branches and how each branch has tended to vie for power and predominance over time. After these brief discussions of the structure of the Constitution, Bodenhamer explores critical substantive areas in the document and in its interpretation, including property, voting, equality, the nature and content of various rights, such as the right to free exercise of religion, and national security. In each of these areas, Bodenhamer discusses some of the key Supreme Court cases over the years that have shaped the law together with discussions of executive and legislative actions and changes in the views of the people. On the whole the discussions are good and accessible (with the omission of a critical "not" in the discussion of a case on government action and its relationship to the Establishment Clause, p. 105). The reader gets a sense of the complexity of the issues and of differences in approach to them. Bodenhamer is generally even-handed rather than polemical or ideologically driven. There is much to be learned about the Constitution and this very short introduction barely skims the surface. Still, the book works as an introduction both to new readers and to readers seeking an overview. The book includes suggestions for further reading for those moved to explore some of the issues in American constitutionalism. Importantly, Bodenhamer treats the Constitution and the United States with respect. He reminds readers of Benjamin Franklin's response as he left Independence Hall to a woman who asked about what kind of government the Constitution had created. "A Republic, if you can keep it", Franklin replied. As Bodenhamer concludes, "how Americans interpret the Constitution during unsettled and troubled times makes Franklin's challenge the most important one that the United States as a nation will ever face." Within the scope of a very short introduction, this book is a good brief study of the Constitution that may inspire readers to learn more. Robin Friedman

  2. 4 out of 5

    Tessa

    Obviously this isn't the most exciting read, but it's short and very informative. I wish it had had a section where it went over the amendments altogether, but otherwise I think it covered most, if not all, of the amendments throughout. I loved how this wasn't just a history lesson or a play by play of the Constitution, but the author went through American history and discussed how the Constitution was used/interpreted, how these interpretations had changed, what it meant for the country, how th Obviously this isn't the most exciting read, but it's short and very informative. I wish it had had a section where it went over the amendments altogether, but otherwise I think it covered most, if not all, of the amendments throughout. I loved how this wasn't just a history lesson or a play by play of the Constitution, but the author went through American history and discussed how the Constitution was used/interpreted, how these interpretations had changed, what it meant for the country, how the branches of government grew and changed, and even discussed several Supreme Court cases and how they related to the Constitution and its interpretations at the time. It's a short, if not a little dry, read, but I think it's very important for every American to understand one of the most famous documents not just of our country, but also of our world. It never hurts to know your rights, either!

  3. 5 out of 5

    KC

    This is my second VSI book, and this one was better than the Niezchte one. It starts out with this history of the constitution in the context of America's founding, then details the amendments as history rolls forward. The key insight is that there are actually 2 constitutions, both of which center around liberty: 1) The constitution is meant to promote liberty by preventing the government to encroach upon the freedoms of citizens (small government) 2) the constitution is meant to promote liberty b This is my second VSI book, and this one was better than the Niezchte one. It starts out with this history of the constitution in the context of America's founding, then details the amendments as history rolls forward. The key insight is that there are actually 2 constitutions, both of which center around liberty: 1) The constitution is meant to promote liberty by preventing the government to encroach upon the freedoms of citizens (small government) 2) the constitution is meant to promote liberty by expanding it to the disenfranchised by means of challenging established hegemonies (big government) There are good reasons for both, but there is somewhat of some irony in the mutually exclusively of the two. Perhaps that explains the polarization that happens among those who similarly claim to uphold the constitution.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Craig Bowers

    WARNING IT DOES NOT INCLUDE THE US CONSTITUTION. So... it is basically 100+ pages of people pretending like they're smart because they can write 101 history level chapters about the US Constitution. You can find information of much higher quality using Google. BUT do not think that this is a quality text to share if you are trying to TEACH people the U.S. Constitution. Failure. Pathetic.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Rick Mathis

    Good basic overview. I was looking for more on ideological origins of the Constitution and significant cases. This book spends more time on contemporary issues that are already familiar to me.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Jason

    Wasn't super exciting, but I can't help but wonder if that's because of the topic. More focused on modern vs. older conflicts.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Stockton Libraries

  8. 5 out of 5

    Mark Gomez

  9. 4 out of 5

    Ruth

  10. 4 out of 5

    Ethan

  11. 4 out of 5

    Alexis

  12. 5 out of 5

    Graham

  13. 5 out of 5

    Don Yu

  14. 4 out of 5

    Scott Harris

  15. 5 out of 5

    Scott

  16. 4 out of 5

    Diane

  17. 4 out of 5

    Daniel Li

  18. 4 out of 5

    Evan Gastman

  19. 5 out of 5

    Jesse Richards

  20. 4 out of 5

    Mark

  21. 4 out of 5

    Jamie Grieve

  22. 5 out of 5

    Irick

  23. 4 out of 5

    Nathan Trout

  24. 5 out of 5

    Jack

  25. 4 out of 5

    Angel

  26. 5 out of 5

    lisa_emily

  27. 5 out of 5

    Nigel Bamber

  28. 5 out of 5

    Arianna

  29. 5 out of 5

    Alex Asay

  30. 4 out of 5

    Tori

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