You can now read, search, and compare 160 constitutions from around the world thanks to Constitute, a website launched by Google on Monday.
The site, developed by the Comparative Constitutions Project, with seed funding by Google Ideas, has digitized the constitutions of 160 countries, making them fully searchable. A user can browse the constitutions using nearly 350 curated tagged topics like religion, political parties, or civil and political rights; or simply search by year or country.
The idea behind the project was to make the world’s constitutions easily available to people in countries drafting new constitutions, to give them a chance to see what others have done in the past. It also allows regular citizens to explore their own country’s constitution.
“Our aim is to arm drafters with a better tool for constitution design and writing,” wrote Sara Sinclair Brody, Google Ideas Product Manager, on the company’s blog post announcing the release of the website. “We also hope citizens will use Constitute to learn more about their own constitutions, and those of countries around the world.”
The project is intended to streamline the process of drafting and writing a new constitution. “In the past, it’s been difficult to access and compare existing constitutional documents and language — which is critical to drafters — because the texts are locked up in libraries or on the hard drives of constitutional experts,” wrote Brody.
The Comparative Constitutions Project (CCP) is directed by Zachary Elkins from the University of Texas, Tom Ginsburg, from the University of Chicago, and James Melton, from University College London. The Cline Center for Democracy at the University of Illinois cooperated with the project, which also supported by the National Science Foundation.
The idea for the project was born in 2008, when the researchers who led the project noted that many countries that where undergoing constitutional reform didn’t have access to other countries’ documents, which was hindering their ability to draft their own, according to the project’s website.
“A common result,” the CCP writes, “is a haphazard and accidental cobbling-together of constitutional elements from other countries.”