World Constitutions Illustrated

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    Launched in April, 2010, this database from the legal resources publisher William S. Hein & Co., Inc., aims to comprehensively collect the current and historical versions of constitutions for all countries of the world, along with commentary in periodicals and monographs, country analysis and data, and general background on constitutional theory, history and jurisprudence.

    May 5, 2014 6:41pm
    Subject Areas
    Major Languages
    Collection Content

    This database, available as part of the HeinOnline group of digital content or separately, aims to comprehensively collect or “illustrate” the current and historical versions of constitutions for all countries of the world, along with commentary in periodicals and monographs, country analysis and data, and general background on constitutional theory, history and jurisprudence. The initial release provided the current constitutions for 193 countries, plus further historic background on the constitutions of the United Kingdom, France, Brazil, and Colombia. Constitutional documents and amending laws are provided in the original language or languages, as well as in English translations whenever available. The additional country information is incorporated from the following data sources accessible through HeinOnline: Annual Human Rights Reports Submitted to Congress by the U.S. Department of State (1976 – current); British & Foreign State Papers (1812- 1968); Country Studies (reports from the Federal Research Division of the Library of Congress); Modern Legal Systems Cyclopedia; and World Fact Book (1981 - current) from the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency.

    At the initial release, 800 classic monographs on constitutions were included in the database; the collection was expected to expand to at least 2000 classic monographs within the year, and ultimately to at least 2400 titles. There is also a bibliography of additional resources on constitutional development in various countries.

    In addition to incorporating 2800 links to scholarly articles on general constitutional development and in reference to particular countries, there are links to related articles in the Law Library Journal (accessible to subscribers of that database). Journal content incorporated into the initial release of the database includes articles from Bill of Rights Review, Constitutional Forum, East European Constitutional Review, and the International Journal of Constitutional Law. There are also links to external sources including Globalex, Wikipedia and government web pages for the various countries.

    In January 2011, Choice magazine included World Constitutions Illustrated in its Outstanding Academic Titles list for 2010, which is a selective list chosen from around 700 titles among more than 25,000 submitted to Choice for review in 2010. A review of the new resource in Choice1 noted two strengths of the collection content: consolidating access to a wide variety of resources, and providing contextual background on the historical development of particular constitutions. The review also stated that in comparison with other sources for constitution documents, the Hein resource has the potential of providing significant support for advanced research by aggregating historical background documents and commentary. For a list of other sources for world constitutions see Appendix A.


    Hein has gathered documents from reference sources as well as independent publications. The publisher is actively recruiting contributions of content from scholars or librarians for source content or suggestions for monographs, documents, or articles. There is a “Contribute to the Project” button in the collection interface. Specialist editors are being recruited for each country.



    MARC21 records are available for purchase, created by Cassidy Cataloguing Services.

    Technical platform & interface

    The constitutional documents are full text searchable. They are also indexed by description, title, language, and various dates including adoption and promulgation. Published books and periodicals are also searchable by full text or cataloging metadata. A faceted search interface supports useful search refinements by country, document type, and dates. Downloading is flexible, offering either text or PDF formats. A useful display feature is the constitutional history provided for various countries, which expands to show in reverse chronological hierarchy the latest consolidated texts (in various languages), amending laws, and original texts cited in various sources. This presentation of historical context demonstrates the level of editing behind the database, and its potential value as a research resource once even more material will have been compiled. The HeinOnline digital content is all hosted on a server at Cornell University, with a mirrored database onsite at the publisher’s headquarters in Buffalo, New York. The publisher provides its own digital archiving arrangements, backing up the access files as well as the storage files of digital masters. A brochure is available from the publisher: “Long Term Policy for the Archive and Storage of HeinOnline, Microforms & Print Material.”


    Various subscription options are available as well as digital content ownership. Ownership of the content loaded in the initial period of 2010 through December, 2011, is quoted at a cost of $7,995. This database can be purchased or subscribed to separately from other HeinOnline resources.


    Center for Research Libraries

    • Virginia Kerr - Digital Program Manager

    1“World Constitutions Illustrated”, Choice, October 2010, 48-0648,

    Document Sources

    Constitution Finder (University of Richmond, T.C. Williams School of Law)

    Points to a variety of sources for constitutional documents, mostly contemporary. Some are in translation. Some are accessed on other web sites. Open access.

    Constitutions of the Countries of the World Online (Oceana Online Services, Oxford University Press)

    Provides 188 country constitutions with extensive expert commentary from leading scholars worldwide. Includes English translations. Topical indexing provided. A companion resource is “Constitutions of Dependencies and Territories Online.” Available by subscription.

    100 Country Constitutions (Congressional Quarterly)

    Gives an overview, analysis and comparison of constitutions from over 100 nations. Country details include government structure, date of constitution, and history. Part of the CQ Supreme Court Collection. Available by subscription.

    Political Database of the Americas

    Includes texts of constitutions for 35 countries in the Americas (North, South, Central). Documentation is presented in text format (keyed in). There do not appear to be translations. A comparative constitutional study is provided, written in Spanish. Open access.

    Worldwide Constitutions (Armenian Constitutional Court)

    Links to 149 documents, with the majority in English (some are English translations).…

    Resource guides

    Comparative Constitutions Project

    This NSF funded project shares text analysis data with scholars but not the actual source texts. ( )


    A companion website to the Comparative Constitutions Project, this includes a repository of 133 constitutional documents in plain text saved as PDFs. The order of browsing in the repository is not very clear.

    Global Legal Information Network (GLIN, through the Library of Congress)

    Bibliography of primary sources including some constitutional documents for the c. 50 member countries. Summaries are provided in English and sometimes in other languages. Not all full documents are accessible through the database.

    Library of Congress Law Library Country Guides

    Includes links to constitutional documents, but some links are broken.

    International law resource portals

    International & Foreign Law by Subject (Washburn University Law School)

    Globalex (Hauser Global Law School Program, NYU School of Law)

    World Legal Information Institute

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