U.S. Constitutional Democracy and the World

Kinder Institute Kansas City Lecture

Kinder Institute Chair in Constitutional Democracy and Professor of History Jay Sexton will give a lecture tracing the global roots and influence of American constitutionalism for a Kansas City audience on the evening of May 10, 2017.

For more information about attending, please contact Kinder Institute Communications Associate Thomas Kane (KaneTC@missouri.edu), and for a brief abstract for the talk and biography of Prof. Sexton, see below.


What does the history of U.S. constitutional democracy look like when viewed from outside of the United States? Does our well-known national story look different when American political development is seen as the product of ideas, processes, and pressures that were not contained by the borders of nation-states? This lecture addresses these timely questions that speak to our own era of global integration. Focusing on the formation and consolidation of the United States in the critical span from the Revolution through the Civil War, the lecture argues that when viewed from a global perspective there were two, rather than one, founding documents produced by the United States in the constitution-making year of 1787. The lecture further contends that the key moment in the overseas projection and appropriation of American political principles paradoxically occurred in the midst of America’s greatest internal crisis, the Civil War.

A native of Salina, Kansas and a graduate of KU, Jay Sexton returned to the Midwest to the University of Missouri in 2016 to serve as the inaugural Kinder Institute Chair in Constitutional Democracy, after spending the better part of two decades at Oxford University in England. Sexton started in Oxford as a grad student Marshall Scholar and worked his way up to being Director of the Rothermere American Institute and, upon his departure, being elected to the honorary title of Distinguished Fellow. Sexton specializes in the political and economic history of the nineteenth century. His research situates the United States in its international context, particularly as it related to the dominant global structure of the era, the British Empire. He is the author of Debtor Diplomacy: Finance and American Foreign Relations in the Civil War Era, 1837-1873 (Oxford, 2005; 2nd ed. 2014) and The Monroe Doctrine: Empire and Nation in Nineteenth-Century America (Hill and Wang, 2011). He also has published two major collaborative projects: The Global Lincoln (co-edited with Richard Carwardine, Oxford, 2011) and Empire’s Twin: U.S. Anti-Imperialism from the Founding to the Age of Terrorism (co-edited with Ian Tyrrell, Cornell, 2015). Currently, Sexton is at work on two projects: a book that explores how steam infrastructure conditioned the connections and relations between the United States and the wider world in the second half of the nineteenth century; and a collaborative project with Kristin Hoganson on “transimperialism”—the crossings and intersections between empires in the nineteenth century.

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