Origins of Democracy and Autocracy in Early Modern Europe

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* Book: The Military Revolution and Political Change. Origins of Democracy and Autocracy in Early Modern Europe. By Brian M. Downing. Princeton University Press, 1993



"To examine the long-run origins of democracy and dictatorship, Brian Downing focuses on the importance of medieval political configurations and of military modernization in the early modern period. He maintains that in late medieval times an array of constitutional arrangements distinguished Western Europe from other parts of the world and predisposed it toward liberal democracy. He then looks at how medieval constitutionalism was affected by the "military revolution" of the early modern era--the shift from small, decentralized feudal levies to large standing armies. "


Michel Bauwens:

Recommended by Emmanuel Todd: Europe was relatively democratic in the Middle Ages, precisely because it was relatively backward and had not evolved to complex but authoritarian family structures and autocracies. But strong central administrations destroyed these traditions temporarily because of the military revolution which occured in the 16-17th centuries, which favoured the monarchs over the nobility.