Published online by Cambridge University Press: 28 June 2022
We draw on V-Dem data to present global democratic trends since 1789 and revisit key descriptive questions on the global spread of democratic institutions. We provide a comprehensive, nuanced, and disaggregated assessment of democratic development through modern history. We first consider the spread of electoral democracy from 1789 until the present day. Over this period, the world has witnessed a massive spread of electoral democracy. However, the spread has been uneven; substantial upturns and downturns have tended to cluster in different time periods, and all along there have been noteworthy cross-region differences in levels of electoral democracy. Second, we take on a disaggregate perspective and look at trends in sub-components of electoral democracy, namely adult suffrage, elected officials, clean elections, freedom of association, and freedom of expression. Finally, we change our focus from electoral democracy to describe trends pertaining to “thicker” understandings of democracy, that is, ‘liberal democracy’, ‘deliberative democracy’, ‘participatory democracy’, and ‘egalitarian democracy’.