Founding Documents of America
Documents Decoded
by John R. Vile
September 2015, 357pp, 8 1/2 x 11
1 volume, ABC-CLIO

Hardcover: 978-1-4408-3928-3
$98, £76, 86€, A135
eBook Available: 978-1-4408-3929-0
Please contact your preferred eBook vendor for pricing.

The U.S. Constitution has roots stretching as far back as the Magna Carta (1215).

Written by a renowned expert on the American Founding period, this book examines selections of key documents from 1215 through 1791 that were instrumental to the development of the U.S. Constitution and the American political tradition.

The latest addition to ABC-CLIO’s popular Documents Decoded series, John R. Vile’s Founding Documents of America presents historic documents key to the foundations of our nation’s government accompanied by introductions that supply background information and analysis that highlights key provisions and provide historical context. The coverage extends beyond the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights to provide contextual understanding of a wide range of other documents, such as private diary entries and political polemics, that will further readers’ understanding of the United States’ founding and early political development.

The documents are organized chronologically into four sections: constitutional antecedents; the revolutionary and confederal periods; calling and convening the Constitutional Convention; and debating, ratifying, implementing, and amending the new Constitution. Through its more than 50 primary source documents—from the Magna Carta of 1215 through the Bill of Rights, which was adopted in 1791—this book will serve high school and college students seeking to understand the documents that laid the foundations for the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights, and provide opportunities for student readers to build critical thinking skills.


  • Supplies comprehensive explanations of the key documents that influenced the writing of the Declaration of Independence and the writing and ratification of the U.S. Constitution
  • Provides expert commentary on—and clarification of—complex and difficult-to-comprehend passages
  • Serves to demonstrate how national documents often drew from experiences at the state level
  • Offers authoritative information that supports any study of America's founding era and the individuals who set the course of the young nation
John R. Vile, PhD, is professor of political science and dean of the University Honors College at Middle Tennessee State University. He has written and edited a variety of books on the U.S. Constitution and the American Founding period, including the ABC-CLIO titles The Constitutional Convention of 1787: A Comprehensive Encyclopedia of America's Founding and Re-Framers: 170 Eccentric, Visionary, and Patriotic Proposals to Rewrite the U.S. Constitution as well as The Encyclopedia of Civil Liberties in America; The Writing and Ratification of the U.S. Constitution: Practical Virtue in Action; and The Men Who Made the Constitution: Lives of the Delegates to the Constitutional Convention. Vile holds a doctorate in government from the University of Virginia.
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