Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Secret History of Democracy -- coming in February 2011

A year or so ago, two Australian scholars, Benjamin Isakhan and Stephen Stockwell, approached me to contribute an article on ancient Indian democracy to a book called the Secret History of Democracy. I jumped at the chance. Now they have just written me and other contributors to tell us that the book will out from Palgrave in February of next year. The book is now listed at, where is described thus:
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. Against the assertion that new democracies have no 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.

I have written about this subject before, so faithful readers  will find few surprises in my article. (I am, however, overjoyed to have it in print in such a collection.) But I will point out that something quite new by Phil Paine on Métis institutions will be in the book, too, and this you haven't seen.


  1. Anonymous10:17 pm

    Congratulations! that sounds like something to be proud of.

  2. Anonymous12:01 pm

    Sounds like a great work and I cant wait to buy it. It is long overdue!! The lie of western so called "democracy" needs to be challenged!