Author Biography

Paula Cossart is an Assistant Professor in sociology at the University of Lille and Member of the Institut Universitaire de France. Her current research focuses on the historical sociology of participatory democracy.

Andrea Felicetti is a Postdoctoral Researcher at the Center for Political Research at KU Leuven. He previously held research positions at the Scuola Normale Superiore (Center on Social Movement Studies), European University Institute, University of Lille 3, University of Louvain (Hoover Chair of Economic and Social Ethics) and University of Canberra (Center for Deliberative Democracy and Global Governance).

James T. Kloppenberg is the Charles Warren Professor of American History at Harvard University. His most recent book is Toward Democracy: The Struggle for Self-Rule in European and American Thought (Oxford University Press, 2016), which presents the history of democracy from the perspective of those who struggled to envision and achieve it.


Notwithstanding notable exceptions, historical investigation is far from central in deliberative scholarship and even recent work on participatory research stresses the need for more historical work. The aim of our introduction to this collective volume is to assess and to draw attention to the contribution of historical analysis in the current scholarly debate on democracy, in particular regarding the ways in which participation and deliberation emerge and develop in New England’s famous town meetings. Town meetings have traditionally been cited as one of the fullest and earliest realizations of the idea of democratic government and of deliberation at work. Nowadays the great debate on deliberative and participatory democracy has contributed to restoring the town meetings as a symbol of democratic deliberation. The critical study of how one of the oldest and most inspiring forms of democratic participation has evolved is not only a fascinating endeavor in itself, it is also a unique opportunity to better understand how and to what extent these institutional practices, inspired by ideals of deliberation and participation, can support – or impede – the democratization of today’s societies.