Centre for the Study of Modern and Contemporary History

Democracy (2017-8)

Our theme for the academic year 2017-8 was 'Democracy'

Iraqi woman voting in 2010
An Iraqi voter displays her purple finger after casting a ballot at an elementary school in Nasiriyah in March 2010.

Democracy has become the dominant political system in the twenty-first century. Not only does the majority of the world's population live under democratic rule, many theorists and commentators consider democracy to be the most effective form of government for large and complex societies.

But is this necessarily the case? And what are the origins of democracy in Europe, North America and beyond? At a time when democracy is threatened by far-right movements and authoritarian leaders, there is an urgent need for us to understand where democracy came from and what it means to different people.

This year's theme will explore democracy from many different angles, including:

  • The ideological and philosophical origins of democracy
  • The rise and fall of democratic political systems
  • Leadership and power in modern democracies
  • The importance of democracy for an understanding of 'modernity' and the modern world
  • The relationship between democracy and (neo-)liberalism
  • The challenges of 'exporting' democracy and democratic 'values' in the modern age
  • Democracy, pluralism and minorities

Through a wide range of events and activities, we intend to contribute to this ongoing conversation about the history of democracy - please join us!