Agents of the People

Democracy and Popular Sovereignty in British and Swedish Parliamentary and Public Debates, 1734–1800


This book on the pre-history of democratization shows how and why more modern attitudes to democracy started to emerge in the late eighteenth century. Focusing on the language of parliamentarians, the author reconstructs and compares debates on the political role and representation of the people in Britain and Sweden. His analysis demonstrates not only the persistence of the classical, pejorative, conception of democracy but also the gradual re-evaluation of the notion prior to the French Revolution. The author analyses the clash between British and French conceptions of democracy as well as the first definitions of the sovereignty of Parliament as the sovereignty of the people. Furthermore, by placing parliamentary discourse in the context of public debates, he reveals the previously ignored role that parliaments played in redefining the most crucial concepts in Western political theory.
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EUR €149.00USD $193.00

Biographical Note

Pasi Ihalainen, Ph.D. (1999), is a Professor of General History at the University of Jyväskylä, Finland. His previous books include The Discourse on Political Pluralism in Early Eighteenth-Century England (1999) on political parties and Protestant Nations Redefined (2005) on the modernization of national identities.

Table of contents

Acknowledgements Abbreviations Introduction 1. British and Swedish Parliamentary Debates in a Comparative Study of Political Vocabularies 2. Variations in British Parliamentary Conceptions of the People, 1734–1771 3. The Swedish Case: Did Popular Sovereignty and Representative Democracy Already Exist in Sweden Before 1772? 4. The Re-Evaluation of the Presentation of the People and Democracy in Westminster, 1772–1789 5. Reactions to the Revolutionary Concepts of Democracy and Popular Sovereignty in Westminster, 1789–1800 Conclusion Bibliography Index of Persons Index of Subjects


All those interested in the history of democratization, historians of political thought, political culture and political debate; Enlightenment scholars; political scientists who study democracy, popular sovereignty, representation, parliaments, modernization and conceptual change.