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The Rise of Majority Rule in Early Modern Britain and Its Empire
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Book description

This expansive history of the origins of majority rule in modern representative government charts the emergence of majority voting as a global standard for decision-making in popular assemblies. Majority votes had, of course, been held prior to 1642, but not since antiquity had they been held with any frequency by a popular assembly with responsibility for the fate of a nation. The crucial moment in the global triumph of majority rule was its embrace by the elected assemblies of early modern Britain and its empire. William J. Bulman analyzes its sudden appearance in the English House of Commons and its adoption by the elected assemblies of Britain's Atlantic colonies in the age of the English, Glorious, and American Revolutions. These events made it overwhelmingly likely that the United Kingdom, the United States, and their former dependencies would become and remain fundamentally majoritarian polities. Providing an insightful commentary on the state of democratic governance today, this study sheds light on the nature, promise, and perils of majority rule.


‘Finally, a history of majority voting! The advent and development of this crucial yet odd feature of modern democracy has long gone unexamined. In this erudite and methodologically sophisticated study, William Bulman fully remedies this situation. The result is a must-read for historians and political scientists alike.’

Sophia Rosenfeld - University of Pennsylvania

‘With analytical precision, Bulman contextualises the origins of majoritarian processes, and makes a powerful case for grounding political history in the development of institutional practices. The result is a brilliant and powerful book, which is conceptually sophisticated and methodologically innovative, and which develops a taut, challenging and historiographically important argument.’

Jason Peacey - University College London

‘This provocative study will interest historians and modern political observers alike, forcing us to rethink what we thought we already knew. Bulman renders puzzling and historicizable what has seemed obvious eternal truth - that majority voting is the inevitable way that political bodies make decisions.’

Rachel Weil - Cornell University

William Bulman’s book can offer … a great place to start thinking about how majority rule originated. Bulman has written an intellectually formidable and smartly argued book that every American political scholar can read profitably as we reflect on the current crisis of majority rule in the Republic.'

Jack N. Rakove Source: Reviews in American History

‘William J. Bulman’s ambitious and extraordinarily successful monograph … will both enlighten the specific scholarly audience to which it is directed and delight the larger community of historians who admire work that does not cut corners or simplify developments to achieve a wider audience.’

Jack P. Greene Source: The American Historical Review

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