Robert Tsai’s new study, America’s Forgotten Constitutions, offers a refreshing and innovative take on a centuries-old topic . . . .
This is not merely a collection of assorted oddities or constitutional anecdotes from America’s political margins, however. Taken together, they comprise a chronological narrative of some of the key issues galvanizing political activism throughout the past 200 years of American history. . . .
By exploring the efforts of those who went beyond mere intellectual debate, and who actually tried to build alternative nations or states within the US, Tsai offers a unique vantage into the ideological struggles underpinning American history and politics. . . .
Tapping into the popular imagination through the various pop culture devices of the era was essential for many of them in generating support and working through their ideas; indeed, the constitutions themselves–while articulated as legalistic devices–might equally be seen as expressions of popular culture and collective imagination. . . .
The style weaves that delicate balance of accessible yet scholarly language. It’s fine fodder for the pop history or politics buff, as well as a useful background text for more serious scholars. It’s an engaging read: enjoyable and thought-provoking at the same time.