Constitutional History: Comparative Perspectives
September 14-15, 2023
An international conference sponsored by:
University of Illinois College of Law
University of Bologna Department of Legal Studies
Center for Constitutional Studies and Democratic Development (Johns Hopkins
University SAIS Europe – University of Bologna)
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Paper proposals are invited for the Fifth Illinois-Bologna conference on
Constitutional History: Comparative Perspectives. The conference will be held in
Bologna at the Department of Legal Studies of the University of Bologna on
September 14-15, 2023.
The conference keynote speaker will be Professor Mirosław Granat, former Justice
of the Constitutional Court of Poland.
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Accompanying the spread of constitutional government around the world has been
a profound interest in the comparative aspects of constitutional law. Scholars have
catalogued the differing features of national constitutions and examined how
different constitutional systems resolve common legal issues. So, too, judges faced
with legal questions have sought guidance in the decisions of constitutional courts
of other nations. While comparative constitutional law is therefore a well-
established field, less attention has been paid so far to the comparative dimensions
of constitutional history. This international conference series aims to address that
shortcoming by energizing the study and analysis of constitutional history from
comparative perspectives. It provides a forum for presentation and discussion of
current research on issues of constitutional history that cross national boundaries.
It also brings together scholars who, at present, are working on constitutional
histories of single jurisdictions—with the expectation that conversations among
these scholars will allow for sharing of methodologies and point also to fresh areas
of research that may transcend national boundaries.
For 2023, the focus of the conference is Landmark Judgments.
Landmark judgments are foundational decisions that, rather than merely resolving a
concrete case, set a key precedent, introduce a major legal principle or concept, or
substantially impact the trajectory of the law. Such judgments, typically issued by
Supreme Courts and Constitutional Courts, are found throughout the world.
Examples include Marbury v. Madison (1803) and Brown v. Board of Education
(1954) in the United States; Reference re Secession of Quebec (1998) in Canada;
Décision Liberté d'association (1971) in France; the Lüth Judgment (1958) in
Germany; and S v Makwanyane and Another (1995) in South Africa.
Landmark judgments in constitutional cases invite numerous questions that can
benefit from comparative analysis. How do landmark judgments become landmark?
What is their history? What determines their trajectory? What kinds of influence do
these leading cases exert at the domestic level? When, how and to what extent do
landmark judgments exert influence in other jurisdictions? Do landmark judgments
gain different meaning when they travel abroad? Who decides whether a case
qualifies as a landmark? Do some jurisdictions produce more landmark judgments
than others? How easy is it to challenge, overturn or displace a landmark decision?
Can a ruling be a landmark if it is widely perceived as erroneous? What is the role of
landmark judgments outside of the courts, in the political sphere and in society
We invite papers that consider these and related questions about landmark
judgments in constitutional cases and that can serve as the basis for a discussion
among scholars interested in exploring landmarks from a comparative perspective.
Papers that focus on a single jurisdiction—and even a single case—are welcome as
are papers that examine landmark judgments from multiple jurisdictions.
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Scholars interested in presenting a paper at the conference should first e-mail a title
and summary of the proposed paper along with a CV to Professor Jason Mazzone at
mazzonej[@]illinois.edu. There is no word limit for the proposals but proposals in
the range of 500-1,000 words are typical. Proposals received by April 1, 2023, will
receive priority. After that date, submitted proposals will be considered if space
For those whose abstracts are accepted, draft papers will be required for circulation
to other participants three weeks prior to the conference.
Subject to the usual requirements of peer review, papers from the conference will
be published as a single volume by Brill. Authors who accept an invitation to present
a paper at the conference must agree to have the paper included in the published volume.
Additional information about length and formatting requirements for the
final versions of the papers will be provided to authors.
Conference participants are responsible for their own travel and accommodation
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Jason Mazzone Albert E. Jenner, Jr. Professor of Law and Director, Program in
Constitutional Theory, History and Law, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
Justin O. Frosini, Associate Professor of Comparative Public Law, Bocconi
University; Director, Center for Constitutional Studies and Democratic Development
Francesco Biagi, Associate Professor of Comparative Public Law, University of
Bologna Department of Legal Studies; Research Fellow, Center for Constitutional
Studies and Democratic Development