What Is the Longest Constitution?

(Last Updated On: September 20, 2021)

Constitutions. They’re the bedrock of a nation’s entire political system. You’d think they’d be well written and clear in an attempt to future-proof themselves. A bit of a fallacy, since constitutions only last like 17-19 years on average. Obviously when your document is super old you’re still going to have to make changes to it. Which is good, most of the time. Anyway, we’re not talking about changing constitutions, we’re talking about some of the longest ones around. Because this post is in English, we’ll be taking the word counts of English translations to determine length. Trust us, the couple words you’ll be giving or taking when moving between languages won’t matter by the end. So who has the longest constitution?

Further Reading: How Do You Amend the Constitution? (The American one)

The Shortest and Longest National Constitution

Just as a fun fact, the US Constitution hovers at around 4,600 words before the 27 amendments. Including the amendments, the US Constitution sits above 7,591 words. This is generally considered to be on the shorter side; the average length of a state constitution is about 39,000 words. 

Since we’re answering the longest constitution, we might as well also throw in the shortest national constitution. That goes to Monaco, whose constitution hovers around 3,814 words. 

But you came here for the long boys, and that goes to the Constitution of India. After being translated to its English version, the Constitution of India sits above 146,385 words. The Constitution of India is structured into 22 parts, with a preamble of 470 articles alone. Overall, India has seen its constitution amended 104 times, and the 104th amendment was rendered effective as recently as January 2020.

India does have the longest national constitution. But the Constitution of India is actually only the second longest constitution in operation. This is where the English translations not really mattering comes in, because the margin isn’t even close.

The Constitution of Alabama

Alabama’s (the state) constitution has 388,882 words. That is over 2.6 times longer than the English translation of the Constitution of India, and almost 10 times longer than the average state constitution among the United States. It also makes Alabama’s constitution over 50 times longer than the Constitution of the United States. This absolute behemoth of a constitution was adopted in 1901 as the 6th constitution of the state, and has been amended a whopping 977 times. These 977 amendments make up about 90% of the length of the document.

Most of the amendments cover individual counties and cities, with some being so specifici they detail the exact salaries of specific officials. What this means for Alabama residents is that their state has a lot of constitutional officers, and individual counties have a lot more difficulties when trying to resolve their problems. That is to say, many local decisions require approval from state legislators. That’s like instead of asking your boss for a raise, you have to go to the company CEO who’s probably in a different state (or a yacht). A more direct example: if a city or county wants to increase taxes to fund schooling in just that city or county, an entire statewide ballot is voted on. This makes local governance extremely difficult in Alabama relative to other states. 

There’s a pretty dark side to this, though. When Alabama held its constitutional convention in 1901, a deciding motive of the constitution’s forging was the establishment of white supremacy. Much of the Constitution of Alabama was forged in the context of the Jim Crow era, where American law codified and enshrined racist policies–the majority of which were intended to disenfranchise Black Americans. One such provision was intended to legally suppress the Black vote during Reconstruction–something that is still being grappled with all over America even in 2021. Parts of Alabama’s constitution still enshrine segregation, despite it being federally struck down in the 50s. Which really just means it’s a functionally useless part of the constitution; as the federal government supersedes state authority in this case. 

Right now, Alabama voters are becoming increasingly in favor of removing the racist language of their state constitution; and voted by a 67% majority to remove some of the language in 2020 (this issue appeared on the state ballot in 2004 and 2012, where Alabama’s citizens voted against it). Alabama’s state legislature is set for another constitutional convention in 2022, where Alabama voters will again need to vote on its approval.

So who knows, maybe Alabama’s constitution just might get a lot longer, or a lot shorter in the near-distant future. 

See if you know who Alabama’s neighbors here here.

About the Author:

+ posts

Kyler is a content writer at Sporcle living in Seattle, and is currently studying at the University of Washington School of Law. He's been writing for Sporcle since 2019; sometimes the blog is an excellent platform to answer random personal questions he has about the world. Most of his free time is spent drinking black coffee like water.