The Universal Constitution?
Lecture by Dag Michalsen
When the national assembly passed the Norwegian Constitution in 1814, it succeeded several new and old states, which had recently created their modern constitutions. Many of these constitutions are similar in shape, resembling each other in the nature of government and with regards to important civil rights and freedom of speech. To a larger or smaller extent, they proclaimed freedom and rights to all. In the period when these constitutions were shaped, from 1789 to 1815, Europe was characterized by continuous warfare.
History shows us that war has the ability to produce normative universal ideas. But the constitutions were also supposed to function in normal times, and after 1815 they were faced by an ideological climate entirely different from the one that shaped them. As it turned out, the world was not at all arranged along the principles of human rights. Nevertheless, it is the notion of universalism that has remained in our perception as the force that shaped the Norwegian Constitution.
Were these modern constitutions from the turn of the 18th century an expression of universalism? Can they help us understand the times in which they were created, as well as the world today? Professor Dag Michalsen introduces the Universalism 2014 lecture series by placing the Norwegian Constitution into a historical and international context.