1st Edition

The French Revolution and the Birth of Electoral Democracy

ISBN 9781138710948
Published January 6, 2017 by Routledge
384 Pages

USD $59.95

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Book Description

Democracy is perhaps the defining characteristic of modern Western society, but even as late as the nineteenth century it was often viewed with suspicion by many who saw it as akin to anarchy and mob rule. It was not until the French and American revolutions of the eighteenth century that electoral democracy began to gain momentum as a serious force, which was eventually to shape political discourse on a broad, international scale. Taking as its focus the French Revolution, this book explores how the experience in France influenced the emergence of electoral democracy, arguing - contrary to recent revisionist studies - that it was indeed the progenitor of modern representative democracy. Rejecting the revisionist semiotic approach to political culture; it instead adopts a definition emphasizing the shared values that govern political behavior, arguing that the Revolution's essential contribution to modern political culture is its concept of citizenship, embracing widespread political participation. In a broader sense, the book studies the grass-roots democracy, focusing on participation in the primary and secondary electoral assemblies. It is primarily concerned with electoral behavior and practices: how can we explain the electoral process and its results? It analyzes electoral procedures and practices, and voter turnout, based on extensive quantitative data. While focused on political history, this work also examines political sociology, giving careful attention to the occupational composition of elected officials. While acknowledging the democratic shortcomings of the French Revolution (the absence of political parties, electoral campaigns, and declared candidates), the book’s comprehensive study of revolutionary elections concludes that, together with its American counterpart, the French Revolution did indeed give birth to modern electoral democracy. As such, this book is essential reading for historians, political scientists, sociologists and readers inte

Table of Contents

Contents: Introduction; The elections to the Estates General; Subjects into citizens; The first municipal elections; The first cantonal elections; The emergence of a new political elite in 1790; Revolutionary electoral culture and the dynamics of voting in assemblies; Elections of the Justices of the Peace; The elections of June 1791 for the first National Legislature; The elections of June and August-September 1791 and the renewal of the political personnel; The establishment of the First French Republic; Ratification of the constitutions of 1793 and 1795; The transformation of electoral politics in the Directory and Napoleonic periods; Conclusion; Appendices; Selected further reading; Indexes.

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'... this study brings a formidable research project to fruition, emphasises the importance of the Revolution in the birth of the modern world, and ultimately suggests that there are few short cuts on the long road to electoral democracy.' French History 'Melvin Edelstein has spent many years patiently gathering forensic evidence of electoral behavior and participation ... In this substantial monograph he lays out the fruits of his researches. ... Edelstein has laid down a secure foundation on which others who are interested in elections and the origins of citizenship will surely build.' H-France ’Historians will be grateful that Melvin Edelstein has published his magnum opus. He provides a wealth of information, demonstrates the limits of the evidence, and draws reasonable, comparative conclusions that shed considerable light on the origins of electoral democracy in the French Revolution and beyond.’ French Studies ’This work should certainly find its way onto the library shelves of every institution that teaches about the French Revolution. As a work of reference, it will be indispensable to the study of elections in that period. [...] Melvin Edelstein here gives us the collected fruit of his many years of arduous work in local and national French archives; recording, totalling and comparing the discoverable figures on turnout and victors for the plethora of elections that marked the early years of the French Revolution.’ English Historical Review 'Edelstein's work provides an unprecedentedly detailed treatment of early Revolutionary elections, and a useful counterpoint to Furet and Gueniffey's scepticism about their importance. Contextualizing Revolutionary electoral results both within their French and Atlantic contexts better than his predecessors, Edelstein's book should serve as a first reference on elections in the French Revolution.' European History Quarterly