Democracy and Tyranny

Lynette Mitchell

In ancient political thought, democracy was often defined, though in complicated ways, by its opposite, tyranny, which was itself defined as the unconstitutional and extra-legal rule of one man, who ruled the unwilling in his own interests. Despite the constructed nature of these definitions, such clacissizing ideas of one-man-rule were influential both in the medieval period, and in the liberalism of the early modern period, though in rather different ways. Their resonances are still felt in modern political discussions, both in the dissatisfaction with and unease about autocracy as a legitimate political form, and in the insistence that democracy (although poorly defined) is the ultimate political form.

This project will involve historians and political scientists from the UK, continental Europe and north America and will engage with and critique ideas about autocracy and democracy from the ancient world to the modern era.