Historian and author Linda Colley headlines Osgoode’s Constitutional Cases Conference

Osgoode Hall Law School entrance to the Ignat Kaneff building

Osgoode Hall Law School’s 25th Annual Constitutional Cases Conference will be held on Friday, April 1 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The conference will be held online and is offered free of charge. Recognized as the leading constitutional law conference in Canada, the event brings together highly respected constitutional scholars, lawyers, students and experts for an insightful and practical analysis of the Supreme Court’s significant constitutional judgments of the past year.

The conference is co-chaired by Osgoode Professors Benjamin L. Berger, Sonia Lawrence and Emily Kidd White. It’s keynote event is the Laskin Lecture and this year’s presenter is Princeton University Professor Linda Colley, author of The Gun, the Ship, and the Pen: Warfare, Constitutions, and the Making of the Modern World (2021). Colley is the Shelby M.C. Davis 1958 Professor of History and an expert on British, imperial and global history since 1700.

The Gun, the Ship, and the Pen: Warfare, Constitutions, and the Making of the Modern World traces the global history of written constitutions from the 1750s to the 20th century, modifying accepted narratives and uncovering the close connections between the making of constitutions and the making of war. In the process, Colley both reappraises famous constitutions and recovers those that have been marginalized but were central to the rise of a modern world.

Linda Colley
Linda Colley

Colley’s first book, In Defiance of Oligarchy: The Tory Party 1714-1760 (1982), challenged the then-dominant view by arguing that the Tory party remained active and influential during its years out of power, exploring the consequences of this for ideas, popular politics and political action. Britons: Forging the Nation 1707-1837 (1992), which won the Wolfson Prize for History, and has passed through five editions, investigated how – and how far – inhabitants of England, Scotland and Wales came to see themselves as British over the course of the 18th and early 19th centuries.

In 1998, Colley accepted a Senior Leverhulme Research Professorship at the London School of Economics. She spent the next five years researching the experiences of thousands of Britons taken captive in North America, South Asia, and the Mediterranean and North Africa. Captives: Britain, Empire and the World, 1600-1850 (2002), the result of this work, used captivity narratives of different kinds to investigate the underbelly and sporadic vulnerability of this empire and its makers.

Colley is also the author of Namier (1990), a reappraisal of the Polish-born and Zionist historian Lewis Namier, and The Ordeal of Elizabeth Marsh: A Woman in World History. Named as one of the best books of 2007 by The New York Times, this was a pioneer of the technique of using the life experiences of an individual to explore trans-national and trans-continental histories.

In 2008-09, Colley guest-curated an exhibition at the British Library, London, Taking Liberties, on the meanings of constitutional texts, publishing an interpretative essay “Taking Stock of Taking Liberties: A Personal View” (2008). In 2014, and in advance of the referendum on Scottish independence, she was invited to deliver 14 talks on BBC Radio 4 on the formation and fractures of the United Kingdom, and these were published as Acts of Union and Disunion (2014).

Born in Britain, she graduated from Bristol University and completed her PhD in history at Cambridge University. She is the first female Fellow of Christ’s College, Cambridge. In 1982, she moved to Yale University and in 2003, to Princeton University.

To learn more, visit the Constitutional Cases Conference website.