A Brief History of Democracy

Democracy is definitely not a new concept. The records of its existence date as far back as the 6th century B.C. The term is usually defined as a system in which all individuals belonging to a certain society have an equal share in political power. There are some tenets which are considered to be essential in a democracy.

  1. Freedom of opinion and religion. This concept includes freedom of speech, press, media and political views.
  2. Right to vote. Every individual must have a right to vote for whomever they personally choose
  3. Separation of power. Power must be separated between different institutions.
  4. Human rights. Every individual has rights that cannot be taken away from them.

The word ‘democracy’ has Greek origins. It means the power of the people. The earliest system that can be called a democracy is found in Athens. In that system, only male land owners had the right to vote. This was also the case in Florence in the late 15th and 16th century. A central figure during this period was Niccolò di Bernardo Machiavelli. He was an Italian diplomat and thinker who wrote a handbook for unscrupulous politician called ‘The Prince’.

He is often called the father of modern political theory. While the Medici family was exiled from Florence, he became a diplomat and held that position for 14 years. He is famous for trying to organize the Florentine militia in the struggle against the return of the Medici family, whose rule was hereditary. He died in 1527 in a village just outside of Florence.

In England, in 1628, king Charles the first dissolved the parliament of England, which lead to the Parliament of Great Britain being established. This was a major step in creating the democracy we know today. The United States pushed the idea of representative democracy further, and after that, more and more countries started encouraging it. By the 19th century, the majority of countries had taken up the system and today, over 100 nations have a fully functioning democratic system.