Conceptual Change and the Constitution

Edited by Terrance Ball and J.G.A. Pocock

In this volume distinguished historians and political scientists examine political discourse during that short span of years from the Revolution through ratification, a period of profound political and conceptual change. The concepts of "sovereignty," "representation," "liberty," "virtue," "republic," "democracy"—even "constitution" itself—were virtually recoined. Others, like "federalism," were new inventions. Out of the vehement political arguments and debates of the period came not only a new Constitution but a new political vocabulary—a political idiom that was distinctly recognizably American.

“A corrective to the all-too-facile tendency to find a conceptual uniformity in the Founders' thought.”


“Politics is a communicatively constituted activity. Words are its coin, and speech its medium. And yet, notoriously, the words which make up this medium have hotly contested and historically mutable meanings.”

—from the Introduction
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About the Author

Terence Ball is professor of political science at the University of Minnesota. J.G.A. Pocock is Harry C. Black Professor of History at Johns Hopkins University.