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Democracy : A Life

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Democracy is either aspired to as a goal or cherished as a birthright by billions of people throughout the world today - and has been been for over a century. But what does it mean? And how has its meaning changed since it was first coined in ancient Greece?

Democracy: A Life is a biography of the concept, looking at its many different manifestations and showing how it has changed over its long life, from ancient times right through to the present. For instance, how did the 'people power' of the Athenians emerge in the first place? Once it had emerged, what enabled it to survive? And how did the Athenian version of democracy differ from the many other forms that developed among the myriad cities of the Greek world?

Paul Cartledge answers all these questions and more, following the development of ancient political thinking about democracy from the sixth century BC onwards, not least the many arguments that were advanced against it over the centuries. As Cartledge shows, after a golden age in the fourth century BC, there was a long, slow degradation of the original Greek conception and practice of democracy, from the Hellenistic era, through late Republican and early Imperial Rome, down to early
Byzantium in the sixth century CE.

For many centuries after that, from late Antiquity, through the Middle Ages, to the Renaissance, democracy was effectively eclipsed by other forms of government, in both theory and practice. But as we know, this was by no means the end of the story. For democracy was eventually to enjoy a re-florescence, over two thousand years after its first flowering in the ancient world: initially revived in seventeenth-century England, it was to undergo a further renaissance in the revolutionary climate of
late-eighteenth-century North America and France - and has been constantly reconstituted and reinvented ever since.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 416 pages
  • 136 x 215 x 22mm | 497g
  • Oxford, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 20 black and white illustrations; 6 maps
  • 0198815131
  • 9780198815136
  • 242,708

Table of contents

Preface and Acknowledgements Timeline Prologue: Lost in Translation?ACT I 1: Sources, Ancient and Modern 2: The Emergence of the Polis, Politics, and the PoliticalACT II 3: The Emergence of Greek Democracy I: Archaic Greece 4: The Emergence of Greek Democracy II: Athens 508/7 5: The Emergence of Greek Democracy III: Athens 507-451/0 6: Greek Democratic Theory? 7: Athenian Democracy in Practice c. 450-335 8: Athenian Democracy: Culture and Society c. 450-335 9: Greek Democracy in Credit and Crisis I: The Fifth Century 10: Athenian Democracy in Court: The Trials of Demos, Socrates, and CtesiphonACT III 11: Greek Democracy in Credit and Crisis II: The Golden Age of Greek Democracy (c. 375-350) and Its Critics 12: Athenian Democracy at Work in the 'Age of Lycurgus' 13: The Strange Death of Classical Greek Democracy: A RetrospectACT IV 14: Hellenistic Democracy? Democracy in Deficit c. 323-86 BCE 15: The Roman Republic: A sort of Democracy? 16: Democracy Denied: The Roman and Early Byzantine Empires 17: Democracy Eclipsed: Late Antiquity, the European Middle Ages, and the RenaissanceACT V 18: Democracy Revived: England in the Seventeenth Century and France in the Late Eighteenth and Early Nineteenth Centuries 19: Democracy Reinvented: The United States in the Late Eighteenth and Early Nineteenth Centuries and Tocqueville's America 20: Democracy Tamed: Nineteenth-Century Great Britain Epilogue: Democracy Now: Retrospect and Prospects Afterword Notes and References Bibliography and Further Reading Index
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Review Text

A fascinating read. Jim Butcher, Winter reads 2018-19: the best books of the season, The Times Higher Education Supplement
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Review quote

Just what was ancient Greek democracy and why does it still matter? Scholarly giant Paul Cartledge answers those questions in this learned and readable book that glides gracefully from Aristotle and the stones of Athens to Rome, the Renaissance, the Age of Revolution, and todays era of globalization. * Barry Strauss, author of The Death of Caesar: The Story of Historys Most Famous Assassination * The fruit of a lifetimes learning, this passionately argued book reveals what made ancient Greek democracy so remarkable and so different from the tamer version we have today. By showing how far we have come from the ancient Greeks, Paul Cartledge reminds us how much we still have to learn from them. * David Runciman, author of The Confidence Trap: A History of Democracy in Crisis from World War I to the Present * Democracy: A Life is a splendid match of author and subject. Paul Cartledge has been thinking deeply about the history and meaning of democracy for most of his own life. The impressive result is a passionate and erudite biography of a revolutionary idea that became a way of life, tracing the story from democracys radical origins, to its early flourishing, multiple crises, many betrayals, and modern rebirth. Buoyed by Cartledges engaging style and complete
mastery of his subject, the reader returns to our own troubled present with new appreciation for democracys deep history, and armed with fresh resources for building a more democratic future. * Josiah Ober, author of The Rise and Fall of Classical Greece * Democracy: A Life is a magisterial and moving account of the fate of democracy, understood as the rule of the masses and political empowerment of the poor, on the basis of some workable definition of freedom and equality. In an easy, graceful style with flashes of revelatory personal expression, Paul Cartledge deploys his stunning mastery of several millennia of human history and deep knowledge of decades of scholarship to bring ancient democracy and its
critics, modern as well as ancient, vividly to life. * Danielle Allen, author of Our Declaration: A Reading of the Declaration of Independence in Defense of Equality * Indian secularists need to read Democracy: A Life, a delightful whistle-stop tour of ancient Greece, and ponder their position and arguments on the seperation of state and religion. * Parsa Venkateshwar Rao Jr, DNA India * Cartledge provides this tour of ancient Greek democracy with the expertise that has made him an internationally recognized authority in classical history, and he does so with a literary grace that makes his presentation of classical and modern democracy inviting, engaging, and accessible. This is true for both the academic specialist, who will want this compact scholarly reference at their fingertips, and the broader public, especially those who are interested, in
the words of one reader, in 'building a more democratic future.' * Bernard J. Dobski, Society * a nuanced account of the meanings and meanderings of democracy. An expert in ancient history, Cartledge spends most of his time looking at the emergence of democratic ideas in Greece, but his studies of democracy's "demise" under the Roman and Byzantine empires and its "eclipse" in medieval Europe are equally well-wrought. * Catholic Herald * A stimulating biography of democracy, both in theory and in all its practical manifestations ... also a thoughtful response to those scholars, such as Amartya Sen, who argue that democracy is not 'a quintessentially Western idea'. Cartledge's analysis suggests that it is just that. * Classics for All * No library should be without this wonderful book, in which Cartledge has abundantly shared his love and knowledge of ancient Greece with us. * Kirkus Reviews * If you only ever buy one book on the history of democracy, make it this one. In this study, Paul Cartledge offers a thrilling account, based on his near legendarycourse of lectures at Cambridge, of why it matters more than ever to us today. * Edith Hall, History Today * Paul Cartledge subtitles his new study Democracy (Oxford) A Life, and was right to do so ... The clarity and zest with which he pursues his Snark-like quarry, the breadth and variety of his reading, and his cheerful persistence against odds (matching that of his subject) combine to make this an unexpectedly enjoyable page-turner. * Peter Green, Books of the Year 2016, Times Literary Supplement * Thanks to Cartledge, Athenian democracy feels more vital than it has done for decades. It is a belter of a book. * Peter Thonemann, Books of the Year 2016, Times Literary Supplement * The huge value of Cartledges book is the reminder that 2016 is merely a way-stop on a very long journey indeed. * Tom Holland, The Guardian * Cartledge offers a compact, yet thoroughly compelling, biography on the forms of democracy from ancient to modern times. A valuable resource, this book grants every reader the timely opportunity to revaluate what they understand by the term democracy, and thus the chance to consider the implications of that understanding in a world whereby national politics can so readily be scrutinised by a global audience. Indeed, closing the final pages of his book, Cartledge's
reader ought to question the very application of such a label to some societies and, more importantly, whether they can even claim to live in an actual democracy themselves. The Greeks may have invented democracy but is it now up to us to save it? * Kerry Phelan, Bryn Mawr Classical Review * A fascinating read. * Jim Butcher, Winter reads 2018-19: the best books of the season, The Times Higher Education Supplement *
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About Paul Cartledge

Paul Cartledge was the inaugural A. G. Leventis Professor of Greek Culture in the University of Cambridge, and President of Clare College, Cambridge. Between 2006 and 2010 he was Hellenic Parliament Global Distinguished Professor in the History and Theory of Democracy at New York University. Over the course of his distinguished career he has written and edited numerous books on the ancient Greek world, including The Greeks: A Portrait of Self and Others
(2002), Ancient Greece: A Very Short Introduction (2011), and After Themopylae (2013), all also published by Oxford University Press. He has also served as historical consultant for the BBC television series The Greeks, and for four Channel 4 documentaries, including The Spartans.
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Rating details

63 ratings
3.68 out of 5 stars
5 16% (10)
4 49% (31)
3 25% (16)
2 6% (4)
1 3% (2)
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