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Phases in the Expansion of Democracy

The Beginning
The story of modern democracy started at least two centuries ago.

In France

Throughout the nineteenth century, democracy in France was overthrown and restored several times. The French Revolution inspired many struggles for democracy all over Europe.

In Britain

In Britain, the progress towards democracy started much before the French Revolution. But the progress was very slow. Through the eighteenth and the nineteenth centuries, series of political events reduced the power of monarchy and the feudal lords.

More people were given the right to vote.

Around the same time as the French Revolution, the British colonies in North America declared themselves independent in 1776. Soon these colonies came together to form the United States of America. They adopted a democratic constitution in 1787. But the right to vote was limited to very few men.

In the nineteenth century the struggle for democracy was centered around political equality, freedom and justice.

People also demanded the right to elect their own leaders.

Many European countries which moved towards democracy did not initially allow all the people to vote.

Let us see some of the common voting system that prevailed during that time.

  • Only people owing property had the right to vote.

  • Women did not have the right to vote.
  • In the United States of America, the blacks could not exercise their right to vote until 1965.
  • Those struggling for democracy wanted this right granted universally to all adults — men or women, rich or poor, white or black. This is called ‘universal adult franchise’ or ‘universal suffrage’. Early democracies were established in Europe, North America and Latin America.

    ‘Universal Adult Franchise’ Or ‘Universal Suffrage’.

    Universal suffrage consists of the extension of the right to vote to all adults, without distinction as to race, sex, belief, intelligence, or economic or social status.

    The first movements toward universal suffrage took place in the early 19th century, and focused on removing property requirements for voting. In the late 19th and early 20th century, the focus of universal suffrage movement became the removal of restrictions against women having the right to vote.

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