Teaching EAS: Asheesh Kapur Siddique’s “The Ideological Origins of ‘Written’ Constitutionalism”

EAS Miscellany encourages educators to integrate articles from our journal into the classroom. As a part of our new series “Teaching EAS,” we invite you to use this lesson plan as a model for designing your curriculum and teaching Early American Studies articles. If you would like to create other lesson plans using EAS articles, please download our template here and share your plan with us.

Teaching EAS: “The Ideological Origins of ‘Written’ Constitutionalism” by Asheesh Kapur Siddique

The US Constitution is one of the most studied documents in the world. But while students often discuss its contents, they rarely have an opportunity to reflect on its broader material context. Historian Asheesh Kapur Siddique places the US Constitution within a longer history of government writing on both paper and parchment in his Fall 2023 EAS article. This lesson plan uses his article to encourage students to consider the relationship between the form and content of a key early modern political document that preceded and, in the eyes of some, anticipated American constitutionalism: the imperial charters issued by sovereigns to settler-colonists empowering and legitimating their endeavors of conquest, colonization, and trade in the Americas. How did these documents entangle meaning and form? And how might we translate our own political beliefs into a codified constitutional document?

This lesson plan serves to meet the following objectives:

  • Students will:
    • Understand the importance of considering sources and their political effects.
    • Explore the material culture of early modern politics.
    • Consider the relationship between artifacts and ideas in the past.

Click “Download” below for a PDF of this free lesson plan:

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Primary Sources:

Asheesh Kapur Siddique is an assistant professor in the Department of History at University of Massachusetts, Amherst. He is a historian of early America, early modern Europe, and the British empire whose research and pedagogy explores the role of collecting, managing, and using knowledge to the history of state formation and governance.

Professor Siddique’s first book, The Archive of Empire: Knowledge, Sovereignty, and the Making of the Early Modern British World (forthcoming with Yale University Press in Fall 2024) explores how archives came to be used as tools of governance in the British empire in both the Atlantic and Indian Ocean worlds between the seventeenth and early nineteenth centuries. Other ongoing projects examine the history of “early American” history writing; the concept of textual “intention” in legal and political thought; and the intertwined histories of financial capitalism and American higher education.