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The Edinburgh Companion to the History of Democracy

From Pre-history to Future Possibilities

Edited by Benjamin Isakhan, Stephen Stockwell

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Takes a fresh look at the history of democracy, broadening the traditional view with previously unexplored examples

This substantial reference work critically re-examines the history of democracy, from ancient history to possible directions it may take in the future. 44 chapters explore the origins of democracy and explore new – and sometimes surprising – examples from around the world.

Each of the 9 parts introduces the period, followed by 3 to 7 case studies.

Key Features

  • The first book to study lesser-known histories of democracy alongside familiar examples
  • Includes historical accounts from leading scholars that document the development of democratic practices in their area or epoch of interest
  • Contributors include Jack Goody, John Keane, Larbi Sadiki, James Anderson, John Fisher and Seymour Drescher

Notes on Contributors

See the full list of contributors here (pdf)

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Notes on Contributors
Jack Goody
Introduction: The Complex and Contested History of Democracy, Benjamin Isakhan
Part I: Pre-Classical Democracy
Pre-History, Christopher Boehm
The Assyrians , Benjamin Isakhan
Ancient India, Steven Muhlberger
Ancient China, Victoria Tin-bor Hui
Israel and Phoenicia, Stephen Stockwell
Part II: Classical Democracy
Early Greece, Kurt A. Raaflaub
Athens , David J. Phillips
Rome, Philip Matyszak
Part III: Medieval Democracy
Islam, Larbi Sadiki
Venice, Stephen Stockwell
The Nordic Countries, Frode Hervik
The Christian Church , John P. Hittinger
Part IV: Early Modern Democracy
The English Parliament, Ann Lyon
The Levellers and Diggers, Andrew Bradstock
The Swiss Cantons, Thomas Lau
The American Revolution, Andrew Shankman
The French Revolution, John Markoff
Part V: Colonialism and Democracy
Africa, Maxwell Owusu
Native Americans, Bruce E. Johansen
Australasia, Tim Rowse
Singapore, Christine Doran
Part VI: National Movements
1808: South American Liberation, John Fisher
1848: European Revolutions, Mike Rapport
1919: After Versailles, Conan Fischer
1945: Post WWII Japan, Takashi Inoguchi
1989: Eastern Europe, Peter M. E. Volten
Part VII: Peoples’ Movements
Anti-Slavery, Seymour Drescher
Women’s Suffrage, Patricia Grimshaw and Charles Sowerwine
Socialism, Communism, Anarchism, Barry Hindess
Civil Rights, Michael L. Ondaatje
Part VIII: Democracy Today
South Africa, Roger Southall
Bolivia, Juan Manuel Arbona and Carmen Medeiros
Georgia, Lincoln A. Mitchell
Iraq, Benjamin Isakhan
Burma, Donald M. Seekins
China Since Tiananmen Square, Baogang He
Islam Since 9/11, Nader Hashemi
Part IX: Futures and Possibilities
Democracy Promotion, Christopher Hobson
Transnational Democracy, James Anderson
Digital Democracy, Brian Loader
Radical Democracy, Lincoln Dahlberg
Deliberative Democracy, Kasper M. Hansen and Christian F. Rostbøll
New Thinking, John Keane
Conclusion: The Future History of Democracy, Stephen Stockwell

About the Author

Benjamin Isakhan is Associate Professor of Politics and Policy Studies and Director of the Middle East Studies Forum in the Alfred Deakin Institute at Deakin University, Australia. He is also Adjunct Senior Research Associate, Department of Politics and International Relations at the University of Johannesburg, South Africa and an Associate of the Sydney Democracy Network at the University of Sydney, Australia. He is the author of Democracy in Iraq: History, Politics and Discourse (Ashgate, 2012) and the editor of 6 books including The Edinburgh Companion to the History of Democracy (Edinburgh University Press, 2015 [2012]). Ben’s current research includes a 3-year funded project entitled ‘Measuring Heritage Destruction in Iraq and Syria’.

Stephen Stockwell is Professor of Journalism and Communication in the School of Humanities at Griffith University, Australia. Previously he worked as a journalist, press secretary and media consultant. His publications include All Media Guide to Fair and Cross Cultural Reporting (2000), Political Campaign Strategy (2005), Rhetoric and Democracy (2010) and The Secret History of Democracy (2011).


A learned and powerful corrective to the conventional wisdom that democracy has specifically Western roots. The editors and contributors authoritatively demonstrate, rather, that the will of the people, citizen engagement and the rule of law have cut across very different cultural and historical trajectories. In so doing they reveal the complexity of democratic ideas and counter the facile and self-satisfied assumptions that have long characterised their study.

- James Piscatori, Durham University

This celebration of democracy’s big tent explores a wide range of historical societies that might be seen as manifesting democratic tendencies or proto-democratic institutions, probes the successes and failures of recent democratic movements and interrogates the future of citizen government.

- Josiah Ober, Stanford University

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