Of the People, By the People: A New History of Democracy by Roger Osborne - review by Douglas Murray

Douglas Murray

Votes of Confidence

Of the People, By the People: A New History of Democracy


The Bodley Head 330pp £20

Roger Osborne opens his enjoyable and pacey work by saying, ‘Let’s be clear from the beginning: democracy is humanity’s finest achievement … the avenue by which modern humans can fulfil their need to construct lives of real meaning.’ It is a relief not to find another ‘rise and fall’, ‘life and death’ or, worst, ‘end of’ democracy book. Osborne is an admirer of democracy and recognises throughout that whatever its imperfections it remains the only system of governance which allows individuals to ‘flourish … while existing as part of a community.’

The story starts, naturally, in Athens, with a fine, brief summary of the evolution of a system that, though very different from contemporary suffrage, started the process off and provided what remain its core texts. He notes the paradoxes the Greeks recognised from the start, such as that, as Cleisthenes

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