Skip to main content


Regime transition, especially the creation of democracies, is a long-standing theme in histories of the modern world. It is also of great interest to political scientists. A number of political scientists have written highly influential books in this field so what we will do in this class is read one of the most recent books of political science on democratization, Daniel Ziblatt’s Conservative Parties, and use it as a launchpad from which to reconstruct the wider field to which it belongs. Ziblatt introduces us to the role that conservative party formation and structures played in the birth of democracy in Europe between 1848 and 1945.

Core Reading:

Daniel Ziblatt, Conservative Parties and the Birth of Democracy in Europe (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017).

Seminar Questions:

1. What is democratization (settled and unsettled)?
2. What are the usual shapers of democratization that political scientists have explored in the past?
3. How, according to Ziblatt, have conservative parties influenced democratization?
4. How might a historian engage with this work?

Further Readings:

  • James Retallack, Red Saxony: Election Battles and the Spectre of Democracy in Germany, 1860-1918 (Oxford: OUP, 2017). (for an example of how a historian engages with similar themes).