Research topic: Democracy

The word "democracy" comes from an amalgamation of the Greek words "demos" (the people) and "kratos" (power or government). It denotes a form of government where power, or the legitimacy of those who exercise it, lies with the people.

The basic idea is that those who are subject to the exercise of power are entitled to participate in decisions that affect them. The first known democracy was established in Ancient Greece around 500 BC. Although only free male citizens constituted "the people", their influence on and participation in government was direct.

Although democracy had been established as a historical principle of government, it was not exercised in practice until the second half of the 18th century in North America and Western Europe, where democracies were developed that were representative in nature: power lay ultimately with the people's elected representatives. Democracy in Norway was inspired by the American Constitution and the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen and was adopted as a constitutional principal in the Norwegian Constitution of 1814.

A key trend in the history of modern democracies is the expansion of the right to vote. Early on the right to vote was typically reserved for male landowners over a certain age and in multi-ethnic states voters also typically had to be white. The right to vote in today's democracies is far wider. In Norway full suffrage was granted to men in 1898 and to women in 1913. The minimum voting age has also been lowered several times, most recently in 1978 from 20 to 18.

 

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Published Feb. 5, 2013 10:34 AM - Last modified Mar. 5, 2013 9:50 AM