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Strong ConstitutionsSocial-Cognitive Origins of the Separation of Powers$
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Maxwell Cameron

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199987443

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199987443.001.0001

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The Printing Press and Constitutional Revolutions

The Printing Press and Constitutional Revolutions

Chapter:
(p.78) 4 The Printing Press and Constitutional Revolutions
Source:
Strong Constitutions
Author(s):

Maxwell A. Cameron

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199987443.003.0004

The printing press contributed to the spread of reading and writing. Although the initial impact of the Gutenberg revolution was to reinforce monopolies of knowledge, over time it contributed to the separation of church and state, the emergence of public opinion, and the differentiation of powers within the state, including the rise of parliaments as legislative – legal text-making – bodies. Theorizing about the role of legislatures, courts, and executives was sharpened by Enlightenment thinkers – among them Montesquieu, who provided the canonical synthesis. The new contractualism opened the door to constitution-making as a conscious, adaptive, and evolutionary activity. This new spirit informed both the French and American revolutions, as well as constitutional traditions in those parts of the world colonized by the West. In particular, they provided the initial point of departure for both the Madisonian tradition in North America and the Bolivarian tradition of Latin America.

Keywords:   Printing press, public opinion, Enlightenment, Gutenberg, revolutions, Latin America

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