Fair and reasonable

Debating rules and access to democracy, 1870-1940
1 September 2020 until 1 September 2023
Project member(s)
Dr A.F. Petterson (Anne) , Dr Anne Heyer (Leiden University) , Prof. Henk te Velde (Leiden University)
Project type

The reasonable exchange of arguments in parliament nowadays seems to be at odds with the accessibility of democratic decision-making. Debate procedures are often seen by the people as elitist and undemocratic. This raises questions about the functioning and legitimacy of representative democracy. This tension between procedural fairness and accessibility even goes back to the early days of modern democracy. The rules of parliamentary debate came under pressure in the Netherlands and the rest of Europe in 1870. What was the use of reasonable debating and decision making if a large part of the population remained excluded? In this project, we study how politicians and citizens between 1870 and 1940 tried to resolve the tension between reasonableness and accessibility of political debates in and outside parliament in the Netherlands, Germany and Great Britain.

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