The Constitution is one of the more controversial documents of our age. Some want it rewritten, some hold it as an inviolable sacred text. Article 9 — the article renouncing war — has been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe wants it abolished. Yet for all the column inches and placards the Constitution inspires, there are remarkably few books that deal with the process by which it was written.

The dry title of Kyoko Inoue’s study should not put readers off. This is a scholarly academic study but it is also the dramatic story of the negotiations that led to its drafting and acceptance. Often told through the minuted words of the key participants, the back and forth of debates, the twisting of intention through semantic gymnastics and the domestic political realities of Japan under occupation make for fascinating set pieces delivered in clear, concise prose.

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