Paul Cartledge, "Democracy: A Life" (Oxford UP, 2016)


The Western concept of democracy has a lineage dating back to the classical world. Paul Cartledge’s book Democracy: A Life (Oxford University Press, 2016) details its origins in ancient Greece and its evolution of it as a theory over the course of the 2,500 years since then. As he explains, what people think of as “classical Greek” democracy was primarily the Athenian concept of it, which was one of several versions that emerged during the Hellenic era. Though typically viewed as at its peak during the days of the Athenian empire, Cartledge sees the “golden age” of democracy as taking place in the 4th century BCE rather than in the preceding one, a shift which attests to the endurance of democracy as a governing system. It was during Roman times when the practice of democracy declined, to the point where it was often seen as a failed or impractical system during the Middle Ages. It was not until the 17th century when democracy staged a comeback in the West, with its advocates in the 18th and 19th centuries championing it as the best possible form of government – a status it continues to hold in the West even with the strains it faces today.

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