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Which country in the world was the first to govern its people by a system known as Democracy?

closed as off-topic by Pieter Geerkens, SMS von der Tann, Mark C. Wallace, Tom Au, SJuan76 Jul 1 '16 at 20:54

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    That depends on what you call a "Democracy". The Greeks invented the word, but I'm not sure we'd call something a Democracy today if only men voted and the bulk of the population was enslaved and had no vote. – Steven Burnap Jul 1 '16 at 17:27
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    ...and "country". I understand from anthropology its not at all uncommon for smaller tribal units to be run by some kind of consensus. So presumably that's a fairly natural organizational setup for our species. – T.E.D. Jul 1 '16 at 17:42
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    @StevenBurnap We do refer to early America as a democracy. – Benjamin Jul 1 '16 at 19:31
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    We do, yes, but Athenians wouldn't have. So without a clear definition of what you mean by "Democracy", the question is not answerable. – Steven Burnap Jul 1 '16 at 19:37
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    In ancient Greek, "demos" means "the people" and "cracy" means "rule of," however, it is worth noting (as @user14394 does) that it was not tied simply to the idea of voting (which we tend to think of it as), but a right to debate, to sit on juries, to be present in public situations, and in generally, be involved with public life. The Athenians did keep women and slaves out, but so did the United States in the nineteenth century, and I don't think history books refer to it as an "oligarchy." You can still find pretty strict restrictions on voting today. – rougon Jul 1 '16 at 19:53
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Which country in the world was the first to govern its people by a system known as Democracy?

The (or rather some) Greek city-States where certainly the first polities to be governed by a system known as democracy, because they named their governing systems exactly that (Aristotle knew them as democracies). Whether we think that they were "democracies" as we use the word today is a different issue, though. As is the issue of whether city-States are "countries".

On entities that called themselves "democracies" and are undisputably "countries", I would guess the United States was the first, although up today there is this silly argument on whether the US is a democracy or a republic - as if something could not be both. If they failed to do so, then my guess would be France, after the Great Revolution.

There is also the issue of the difference between democracy as a kind of polity - the US is a democracy - and democracy as a method of making decisions - the US frequently uses non-democratic and even undemocratic methods when taking decisions.

It also comes to reason that "democracy" is not a fixed thing; we would not call a country that allowed slavery and denied rights to women "a democracy", but when it comes to late 18th century polities, we would have no problem with the term.

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