There are 4,050,756 words in the constitutions of 183 countries. Aren’t there more than 183 countries in the world? I’ll explain down the line, read on.
So, I was thinking recently about ‘Governments’ as an entity and as a construct. What gives them the ‘power’? What legally establishes them? Without getting into deeper rabbit holes, the simple answer to these questions is ‘the constitution of the respective country’.
A constitution is a collection of fundamental principles or well-established precedents from the past, that constitute the legal basis of a polity, organisation or other types of entities, and commonly determine how that entity is to be governed.
From the ‘eye for an eye‘ laws of Babylon to the modern ones and everything in between, there is so much progress we have made as civilised societies to ensure the relationship between the state and its people is amicable and acceptable. I will probably write a long-form article about that in the future. I need to do a lot more reading to explore and understand the philosophies and driving forces behind various constitutions.
However, today we will look at a few surface-level facts about the constitutions of the world. More like pub-quiz facts that might help you one day! 😅
The Constitution of India is the world’s longest written constitution, with 444 articles in 22 parts, 12 schedules and 124 amendments. It has 146,385 words in its English-language version. The smallest written constitution currently in force is the Constitution of Monaco at 3814 words.
There are 4,050,756 words in the constitutions listed in the graphic below. Libya, Palau, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Vatican City and Yemen have written constitutions, but there is no official source of the number of words in them, so they are not included.
An uncodified constitution is one where not all the elements are written into law in a single document. Generally, some elements of constitutional conventions, are not written into law. Though these elements are written down across various documents and/or publications, these documents are not enforceable in law. The examples of uncodified constitutions with approximate dates of their founding documents:
- (1215) Constitution of the United Kingdom
- (1600) Constitution of San Marino
- (1867) Constitution of Canada
- (1840) Constitution of New Zealand
- (1950) Basic Laws of Israel
- (1974) Basic Laws of Sweden
Of the continuously active codified constitutions of sovereign states, the Constitution of the United States is the oldest and was ratified on June 21, 1788. The youngest constitution in the world belongs to Cuba, where the Communist Party task force drafted a new constitutional text, which was proclaimed on April 10, 2019. Interestingly, the constitution of Cuba acknowledges climate change and its threat. Incidentally, only 6 countries in the world have the word climate change in their constitutions, two more countries have included it in their draft versions.
In Asia, the oldest continuously active constitution is that of Lebanon, which is active since May 23, 1926. It is followed by Indonesia, Japan, Korea and India. In Europe, the oldest codified constitution is that of The Netherlands, active since March 29, 1814. The Netherlands has a very interesting history of constitutions, with its first one dating back to 1579. It is followed by the constitutions of Norway, Belgium and Denmark in Europe.
Africa’s oldest constitution is that of Monaco, which is active since December 14, 1962. The oldest constitution in South America is that of Argentina, which is active since May 1, 1853. Tonga takes the prize for the oldest continuously active constitution in Oceania, running since November 4, 1875.
Play around with the interactive graphic above and let me know other interesting facts that you see about constitutions. While researching for this article, I came across the constitute project, which has a searchable database of the constitutions of the world. Check it out if you have some free time.
Don’t forget to share this article with that friend who majored in political science. 😉
Have a great day and stay safe!