July 8th, 1996
I. Meaning of Democracy
II. Summary of Places and Dates
III. Features of Democracy
IV. Types of Democracy
V. Early Democracy
VI. Middle Ages and England
VII. The Renaissance
A. United States of America
VIII. Modern Times
IX. Important People
Demos Kratia, or democracy, as it is used today, means " the people rule." A democracy is a form of government is run by the people of that country through elections and representation. A democracy is really a form of a republic known as a democratic republic. A republic is a government where officials, elected by a small group of people, make the important decisions.
Democracy has been around for almost 2500 years since Athens, Greece became the first democracy. The Romans also experimented with democracy, however it was more a republic, and not a democracy. Around 1200 England laid the groundwork to become a republic. Later, in the 1700's, United States of America, became a democracy.
There are many features of democracy. Most of these features are the same, but individual countries use variations
of the main ideas. The main feature
of democracy, which determines a true democracy, is free, competitive elections. Sometimes however, women or minorities don't have the right to vote. Some of these other features, such as checks on power, help to limit the strength of any one person or party. Other features like free elections, and majority/ minority rule, help to make elections fair, since the judgment of many people is generally better then the judgment of a few people. Political parties keep one government, or idea of government form holding all power. These features let the people to govern themselves without the country being torn apart.
There are two true types of democracies, direct democracies, and representative democracies. In a direct democracy all the people meet to discuss problems and creat laws. A direct decision consults all the people for the decisions.. Since that is unpractical in today's
world, a new form of democracy,
the representative democracy has arisen. This form of democracy has elected representatives making most of the day to day decisions, while the main groups of citizens consulted for only the most important decisions.
One of the earliest known democracies was in Athens, a city-state in southern, ancient Greece. Around 620BC, Athens became the first true democracy. In Athens the ruler Draco tried to make many reforms in the city state. Draco organized laws by putting them in a written code, letting everyone know what the laws were and how they applied to everyone. He also gave the people the right to a trial. The next ruler Solon, the next Athenian ruler also helped Athens become a democracy. He also wrote many reforms into the laws and gave all citizens the right to vote, an important step in the origins of democracy. Some of his reforms created problems for other people, who wanted to become citizens. In 500BC, Athens looked like a modern democracy. The main lawmaking body was known as the assembly, and all free male citizens could be in the assembly. The assembly met about forty times a year to discuss and vote on the issues. The council of 500, which was made of volunteers from all ten districts, helped sort out the assembly's business. An even smaller council, a counsel of fifty men, made the daily decisions of the city-state. The largest problem of Athens democracy were that only a few of the people could become citizens, therefore limiting the power to a small group. This problem caused many slaves, and other non-landowners to be disappointed. Athens, no matter what the problems, was the first true democracy.
Rome, around 500 BC, became a republic. A republic is not a democracy, but is very...
Bibliography: Alexander J. Groth "Democracy" The World Book Encyclopedia. Volume 5, 126-130p.
Chicago: World Book, Inc, 1990
Jeffrey M. Ikler, Nancy Rogers, and others. The Pageant of World History.
Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey; Prentince Hall, 1994
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