Western Europe's Democratic Age: 1945—1968

November 28, 2020
Western Europe's Democratic Age: 1945—1968

A major new history of how democracy became the dominantpolitical force in Europe in the second half of the twentiethcenturyWhat happened in the years following World War II to create ademocratic revolution in the western half of Europe? In WesternEurope's Democratic Age, Martin Conway provides aninnovative new account of how a stable, durable, and remarkablyuniform model of parliamentary democracy emerged in WesternEurope—and how this democratic ascendancy held fast until thelatter decades of the twentieth century.Drawing on a wide range of sources, Conway describes how WesternEurope's postwar democratic order was built by elite, intellectual,and popular forces. Much more than the consequence of the defeat offascism and the rejection of Communism, this democratic orderrested on universal male and female suffrage, but also on new formsof state authority and new political forces—primarily Christian andsocial democratic—that espoused democratic values. Above all, itgained the support of the people, for whom democracy provided a newmodel of citizenship that reflected the aspirations of a moreprosperous society.This democratic order did not, however, endure. Its hierarchiesof class, gender, and race, which initially gave it its strength,as well as the strains of decolonization and social change, led toan explosion of demands for greater democratic freedoms in the1960s, and to the much more contested democratic politics of Europein the late twentieth century.Western Europe's Democratic Age is a compelling historythat sheds new light not only on the past of European democracy butalso on the unresolved question of its future.