How to write a history of democracy?

Activity: Participating in or organising an eventWorkshop, seminarAcademic


In his work on democracy, the French historian, theorist and activist Pierre Rosanvallon, member of the Collège de France and professor at the École des hautes études en sciences sociales, emphasizes the deeply historical character of democracy. While in many historical accounts, democracy is conceived as a timeless entity that only has to come to full fruition or can decay in the course of time, Rosanvallon argues that democracy itself is a historically variable phenomenon, characterized by shifting shapes and internal tensions. This raises the question how to write a history of democracy. Is it a history of concepts, values, institutions, practices, or still other forms? What are the various shapes and tensions democracy has acquired since its establishment as a legitimate form of rule? What explains the transformations of democracy? Are there significant differences between national trajectories, resulting in different histories of democracies in the plural?
At the occasion of the publication of Pierre Rosanvallon, De democratie denken. Werk in uitvoering (Nijmegen: Vantilt, 2019), these questions will be discussed (in English) with junior and senior researchers of democracy. After a short introduction by Rosanvallon, participants have the opportunity to contribute to the debate. A limited number of researchers will have to opportunity to give a short presentation (5 minutes) as an introduction to the discussion.
Period16 Oct 2019
Degree of RecognitionInternational


  • Political History
  • Democracy