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. Downing won the American Political Science Association's Gabriel Almond Award for the dissertation on which this book was based.
"A refreshing return to a realistic view of political history."--William R. Hawkins, Chronicles