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DescriptionReviewsContentsAuthors

The Secret History of Democracy explores the intriguing thesis that there is a lot more democracy in human history than historians generally admit, and presents some surprising evidence for this case. The idea that democracy could have a 'secret' history might at first seem strange. Indeed, the history of democracy has become so standardized, is so familiar and appears so complete that it is hard to believe it could hold any secrets. The central argument of this book is that there is much more to the history of democracy than this foreshortened genealogy admits. There is a whole 'secret' history, too big, complex and insufficiently 'Western' in character to be included in the standard narrative.

In exploring this 'secret' democratic heritage, the contributors to this volume establish that democracy was developing in the Middle East, India and China before classical Athens, clung on during the 'Dark Ages' in Islam, Iceland and Venice, was often part of tribal life in Africa, North America and Australia and is developing today in unexpected ways through grassroots activism. This book is a timely collection of essays that make a substantial contribution to the emerging debate about the history of democracy and set the tone for future discussion and research.


Description

The Secret History of Democracy explores the intriguing thesis that there is a lot more democracy in human history than historians generally admit, and presents some surprising evidence for this case. The idea that democracy could have a 'secret' history might at first seem strange. Indeed, the history of democracy has become so standardized, is so familiar and appears so complete that it is hard to believe it could hold any secrets. The central argument of this book is that there is much more to the history of democracy than this foreshortened genealogy admits. There is a whole 'secret' history, too big, complex and insufficiently 'Western' in character to be included in the standard narrative.

In exploring this 'secret' democratic heritage, the contributors to this volume establish that democracy was developing in the Middle East, India and China before classical Athens, clung on during the 'Dark Ages' in Islam, Iceland and Venice, was often part of tribal life in Africa, North America and Australia and is developing today in unexpected ways through grassroots activism. This book is a timely collection of essays that make a substantial contribution to the emerging debate about the history of democracy and set the tone for future discussion and research.


Reviews

'This exciting book surely enlivens and enriches our debate on democracy and its future by digging afresh oft-forgotten, yet most enlightening democratic experiences found in human history.' - Takashi Inoguchi, Professor Emeritus, University of Tokyo and President of the University of Niigata Prefecture, Japan 
 
'The reader is treated to stimulating and excellent accounts of democratic forms of democratic governance in the Middle East
(past and present), Ancient India and China, Medieval Iceland and the Early Venetian Republic, Uganda and South Africa, (Aboriginal) Australia and (for the Me´ tis people of Western) Canada. A fascinating picture emerges of indigenous traditions upon which to build a democratic system in which collective decisions are made with free debate, where government consultation
includes broad participation of equals, and democracy is a creature of the people rather than window-dressing by the one or few really in charge' Roland Axtmann, Australian Journal of Political Science
 
'This is an interesting and worthwhile addition to the slowly growing literature on the global history of democracy. In redirecting our gaze away from the standard historical reference points, it offers an important corrective to the common tendency of identifying
democracy as a Western product. This volume pushes us to question accepted thinking on the topic, and suggests that the past may be one route towards a more democratic future.' Christopher Hobson, Global Change, Peace and Security

'The thought-provoking essays gathered in The Secret History of Democracy provide convincing evidence that democratic mechanisms have been invented many times and in many places, including times and places neglected in common accounts. This collection is a sobering reminder that democratic practices have often been succeeded by something else. But one also takes away a sense of the dynamic character of democratic history and the endless diversity of practices with some reasonable claim to embody democratic principles. As growing numbers wonder about what sorts of political institutions make sense in the face of the enormous problems confronting the twenty-first century, this demonstration of the long human history of political creativity gives some reason for hope.' -John Markoff, Professor, University of Pittsburgh, USA

'A fascinating, thought-provoking and well-informed survey of little-known 'roots of democracy' and 'proto-democratic' systems and movements across the globe , from ancient and 'primitive' to modern societies. An eye-opener that forces us to differentiate more carefully and to rethink the history of democracy.' - Kurt Raaflaub, Emeritus Professor, Brown University, USA


Contents

Introduction: Democracy and History
PART I: PRE-ATHENIAN DEMOCRACY
What is so 'Primitive' about 'Primitive Democracy'? Comparing the Ancient Middle East and Classical Athens; B.Isakhan
Before Athens: Early Popular Government in Phoenicia and Greek City States; S.Stockwell
Republics and Quasi-Democratic Institutions in Ancient India; S.Muhlberger
Digging for Democracy in China; P.Keating
PART II: DEMOCRACY IN THE 'DARK AGES'
Behind a Veil: Islam's Democratic History; M.Abdalla & H.Rane
Ideals and Aspirations: Democracy and Law-Making in Medieval Iceland; P.P.Boulhosa
Democratic Culture in the Early Venetian Republic; S.Stockwell
PARR III: INDIGENOUS DEMOCRACY AND COLONIALISM
Africa's Indigenous Democracies: The Baganda of Uganda; I.Kizza
The Hunters who Owned Themselves; P.Paine
Aboriginal Australia and Democracy: Old Traditions, New Challenges; L.Behrendt
The Pre-History of the Post-Apartheid Settlement: Non-Racial Democracy in South Africa's Cape Colony, 1853-1936; P.Fry
PART IV: ALTERNATIVE CURRENTS IN MODERN DEMOCRACY
Birthing Democracy: The Role of Women in the Democratic Discourse of the Middle East; K.L.Gandolfo
The Streets of Iraq: Protests and Democracy after Saddam; B. Isakhan
Monitory Democracy? The Secret History of Democracy Since 1945; J.Keane
Conclusion: Democratizing the History of Democracy; B.Isakhan & S.Stockwell


Authors

BENJAMIN ISAKHAN Research Fellowat the Centre for Dialogue, La Trobe University, Australia. He is the author of several publications including Democracy in Iraq: History, Politics and Discourse (2011)
STEPHEN STOCKWELLProfessor of Journalism and Communication at Griffith University's Gold Coast campus, Australia. He was previously a journalist with 4ZZZ, TripleJ and Four Corners and a political campaign media consultant. He is author of All-Media Guide to Cross-Cultural Reporting (with Paul Scott) and Political Campaign Strategy (2005)