One of the many intriguing things about the storming of the US Capitol on 6 January 2021 was the way in which many of the misnamed ‘patriots’ who invaded the building tried to legitimise their alarming actions. Their cry was that they were only seeking to uphold the constitution by preventing Congress from certifying the presidential election result in Joe Biden’s favour. Donald Trump told his supporters prior to their march on the ‘temple’ of American democracy that it was their duty to ‘protect’ the constitution by stopping ‘the steal’. In a similar vein, during the Senate trial of Trump for his role in enflaming his supporters to march on the Capitol, the impeachment managers presenting the case against the former president evoked the defence of the constitution as their purpose.
That the American constitution was used in these various ways would come as no surprise to Linda Colley. Although her terrific new global history of constitutions, warfare and the making of the modern world was completed just before the events of 6 January, it anticipates many of the arguments and