In this chapter the origins of democracy are discussed and the issue is brought up that contrary to popular belief democracy may be traced back farther the than Ancient Egypt. However, they were not so obviously democratic. They were things like assemblies in medieval Ireland, Rome, democratic characteristics of ancient Native Americans, etc. Major democratic movement began in Europe with the Magna Carta in Britain, the beginning of democratic practices in the U.S. by the pilgrims who came over from Europe on the Mayflower and then the French Revolution as well as others.
The early democratic society was controlled but the elite. There was only a very small percentage of white male adults who had the right to vote and contributed in the democracy. However the extent of democracy was growing and by 1913 most places and increased the voter percentage. This was much to the dismay of most governments who were primarily made up of people from the bourgeois. The next move for the government and those who were involved in it was to figure out how to manipulate this new democracy. In order to do this they used various different tactics like land owner intimidation, gerrymandering, educational qualifications etc.
Because of these restrictions almost half of Britain’s voting population was disenfranchised. This is interesting because The United states still uses gerrymandering but usually not in a negative way. Now it is used to include more minorities and make voting more fair.
As voting rights increased democracy and its politics changed. With the spread of the vote a new way of doing things began. Politics conformed for the masses. Instead of meeting in small groups of the elite and discussing issues that only related to them those who wanted to be members of government had to instead speak to masses of people… usually common people. However, we should take note of how the Christian church failed to jump on the bandwagon with this new type of democracy.
Along with democratic and political changes there were also other changes. For instance, during this time there was a significant change in the amount of people who worked for a set wage. Also, while wageworkers were increasing people who did the jobs like crafters and farmers were decreasing. Also, now that the working class felt that they had some power and it wasn’t just all in the hands of the elite they began to organize themselves. Social parties emerged as well as unions.
---Dorothy "Bunny" Smith