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The complex and contested history of democracy

posted on 01.01.2015, 00:00 authored by Benjamin IsakhanBenjamin Isakhan
Democracy has never been more popular. It is successfully practiced today in a myriad of different ways by people across virtually every cultural, religious or socio-economic context. The forty-five essays collected in this companion suggest that the global popularity of democracy derives in part from its breadth and depth in the common history of human civilization. The chapters include exceptional accounts of democracy in ancient Greece and Rome, modern Europe and America, among peoples’ movements and national revolutions, and its triumph since the end of the Cold War. However, this book also includes alternative accounts of democracy’s history: its origins in prehistoric societies and early city-states, under-acknowledged contributions from China, Africa and the Islamic world, its familiarity to various Indigenous Australians and Native Americans, the various challenges it faces today in South America, Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Asia, the latest democratic developments in light of globalization and new technologies, and potential future pathways to a more democratic world. Understanding where democracy comes from, where its greatest successes and most dismal failures lie, is central to democracy’s project of inventing ways to address the need of people everywhere to live in peace, freedom and with a say in the decisions that affect their lives.


Title of book

The Edinburgh companion to the history of democracy: from pre-history to future possibilities

Chapter number



1 - 26


Edinburgh University Press

Place of publication

Edinburgh, Scotland





Publication classification

B1 Book chapter

Copyright notice

2015, Edinburgh University Press




B Isakhan, Stockwell, S

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