Chronology of Modern Democracy

compiled by Steve Muhlberger, Nipissing University for the World History of Democracy site

3: The View of Tatu Vanhanen

from his 1984 book, The Emergence of Democracy


Tatu Vanhanen's The Emergence of Democracy: A comparative study of 119 states, 1850-1979 (Helsinki, 1984), was in his own words "an attempt to explain why the process of democratization started in the last century and why it has not extended equally to all countries and turned them into democracies." (p. 9)

Vanhanen's work, as he pointed out himself, is just one of many efforts to measure democracy and its relationship to social and economic preconditions.   It caught my attention in the early 1990s because it  not only attempted a world-wide perspective, but also led him, at a rather bleak time, to state that because of economic and educational trends in a variety of countries "we have to expect a corresponding rise in the number of Democracies."

On p. 11,  he gave this definition of democracy:   "In modern societies democracy means that people and groups of people are free to compete for power and that power holders are elected by the people and responsible to the people.  As a consequence of free competition, political power is assumed to be widely distributed among various groups in democracies."

The bulk of the book was devoted to defining the social and economic preconditions of democracy (Vanhanen emphasized education, occupational diversification, and a wide distribution of ownership of agricultural land), and relating them to an "index of democratization (ID)."    Vanhanen's ID was a rough measurement of powersharing in electoral systems, and was defined as ID=Competition x participation/100.

Competition was calculated by subtracting the percentage of the votes won by the largest party from 100 (using whichever type of national election was more important under a given regime).

Participation was the percentage of the total population which actually voted.

For each decade beginning in 1850, Vanhanen calculated ID numbers for each independent country existing in 1984 (thus excluding Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia) with a population of over 1 million people (thus excluding Iceland among other states), and using them determined whether they were democracies during that decade.   He further identified each country in each decade as a "New Democracy" (crossing the ID threshold into democracy for the first time in that decade); an "Old Democracy" (a democracy that had also been one during the previous decade); a "Dropper" (dropping below the ID threshold in that decade); a "Re-entrant Democracy" (a former democracy crossing the ID threshold a second time); or an "Other Non-democracy" any non-democracy that had not "dropped" in that decade.

The charts track these five different classifications, and are adapted from Vanhanen's Appendix on pp. 137-159 of The Emergence of Democracy.    His charts are considerably more detailed, in that he summarizes his key political, economic, and social measures in them.    I have just recorded his five-fold classification of democracy, for all countries which at some point were classified as democracies by Vanhanen.   All countries that were classified as consistently undemocratic have been excluded from my charts.
 
 

Democracies before 1910

Codes:   1 = Old Democracies    2=New Democracies   (In this group, during this period, there were no "droppers" (code 3 on following charts) and thus no "re-entrant democracies" (code 4 on following charts).   I have omitted the 5s that could be assigned to each country before its emergence as a "new democracy."

 
 
1850-1859
1860-1869
1870-1879
1880-1889
1890-1899
1900-1909
Australia          
2
Belgium        
2
1
Canada  
2
1
1
1
1
France    
2
1
1
1
New Zealand
       
2
1
Norway          
2
Switzerland      
2
1
1
United States
2
1
1
1
1
1

 
 

Democracies from 1910-1979 (by continents)

Asia

Codes:   1 = Old Democracies    2=New Democracies   3=Droppers (below the threshold of democracy)      4=Re-entered Democracies   5=Other non-democracies

 
1910-1919 1920-1929 1930-1939 1940-1949 1950-1959 1960-1969 1970-1979
Australia
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
Fiji            
2
India        
2
1
1
Israel       
2
1
1
1
Japan      
2
1
1
1
Korea, South        
2
1
3
Lebanon       
2
1
1
1
Malaysia          
2
1
New Zealand
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
Philippines         
2
1
1
3
Sri Lanka         
2
1
1
1

 
 

Europe

Codes:   1 = Old Democracies    2=New Democracies   3=Droppers (below the threshold of democracy)      4=Re-entered Democracies   5=Other non-democracies

 
1910-1919 1920-1929 1930-1939 1940-1949 1950-1959 1960-1969
1970-1979
Austria
2
1
3
4
1
1
1
Belgium
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
Czecho-
slovakia
 
2
1
3
5
5
5
Denmark
2
1
1
1
1
1
1
Finland
2
1
1
1
1
1
1
France
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
Germany (W)  
2
3
5
4
1
1
Greece        
2
1
1
Hungary      
2
3
5
5
Ireland  
2
1
1
1
1
1
Italy
2
3
5
5
4
1
1
1910-1919 1920-1929 1930-1939 1940-1949 1950-1959 1960-1969 1970-1979
Netherlands
2
1
1
1
1
1
1
Norway
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
Poland  
2
3
5
5
5
5
Sweden
2
1
1
1
1
1
1
Switzerland
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
United Kingdom
2
1
1
1
1
1
1

Americas

Codes:   1 = Old Democracies    2=New Democracies   3=Droppers (below the threshold of democracy)      4=Re-entered Democracies   5=Other non-democracies

 
1910-1919 1920-1929 1930-1939 1940-1949 1950-1959 1960-1969 1970-1979
Argentina         2 1 3
Brazil         2 3 5
Canada 1 1 1 1 1 1 1
Chile         2 1 3
Colombia           2 1
Costa Rica   2 1 3 4 1 1
Cuba       2 3 5 5
Dominican Rep.             2
Ecuador         2 3 5
El Salvador             2
Guatemala             2
Guyana           2 1
1910-1919 1920-1929 1930-1939 1940-1949 1950-1959 1960-1969 1970-1979
Jamaica           2 1
Panama         2 1 3
Peru           2 3
Trinidad & Tobago           2 1
US 1 1 1 1 1 1 1
Uruguay   2 1 1 1 1 3
Venezuela           2 1

Africa -- by Vanhanen's criteria, no African countries emerged as democracies before 1980.