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Jack N. Rakove
Stanford University (Stanford, CA 94305-2004)
The Ticklish Experiment: A Political History of the Constitution

A history of  the Constitution and its connections to  American politics and governance from 1789 to the present. The book focuses on three main themes: changing relations between the presidency and Congress, the influence of economic and social interest groups, and the rise of rights-based claims in the courts.

The purpose of this project is to write an interpretive history of the U.S. Constitution, from its initial implementation in 1789 to the current state of the polity. This interpretation would emphasize the political dimensions of the American constitutional system, rather than the development of its many doctrines of constitutional law. It would pursue three main themes: (1) the relation between the political branches of the executive and Congress, and the working of the different "systems" of political parties; (2) the ways in which clusters of interests in society have sought to mobilize both national and state governments for their own purposes; and (3) the rights-based claims made by different individuals and interests that have often sought to mobilize the workings of the judiciary for their own ends. Each of these themes would be examined within a set of chronologically-determined segments of roughly five to six decades each: 1789-1850, 1850-1901, 1901-1965, and 1965-2016.

Project fields:
American Government; U.S. History

Public Scholars

Research Programs

$50,400 (approved)
$50,400 (awarded)

Grant period:
9/1/2016 – 8/31/2017