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The Birth of Party Democracy. The Emergence of Mass Parties and the Choice of Electoral Laws in Europe and North America (1870-1940)

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - partydemocracy (The Birth of Party Democracy. The Emergence of Mass Parties and the Choice of Electoral Laws in Europe and North America (1870-1940))

Reporting period: 2018-07-01 to 2019-12-31

Throughout the nineteenth century and the first half of the twentieth century, most western European countries transited from having monarchical regimes with no elections to establishing representative democracies elected under universal suffrage. In the process, electorates organized in different political parties with different ideological and programmatic commitments. The purpose of this project is to examine, in a comparative manner and using newly collected data as well as recently-developed statistical techniques, the emergence of mass parties, the choice of electoral institutions, and the final crystallization of different party systems in Western Europe and North America (and, to some extent, Australia and New Zealand) during that period.

The project is critical to understand the different dimensions (party systems, electoral rules) according to which modern democracies became organized. Those dimensions have been found to affect the management of the economy (such as the size of public debt in response to economic shocks), the structure and generosity of the welfare state, and, generally speaking, the quality of political accountability (the link between citizens and politicians).

The project requires the intensive collection of electoral and socio-economic data at the constituency level and of roll call votes in parliaments. Using that data, it will explore the formation of diverse party systems as the outcome of sequential choices made at particular historical junctures that involved the creation of nonsocialist and socialist parties, the mobilization of their corresponding electorates, and the strategic response of the governing political elites (often through the manipulation of electoral laws and sometimes through the creation of new electoral coalitions).
During the first 18 months of the project, we have set up a full research team according to the original plan. That includes: 1 academic coordinator; 2 postdoctoral fellows until September of 2017, then 5 fellows until now; 1 data analyst for the full reporting period; 2 research assistants for the full reporting period; 1 senior visitor for the academic year 2017-18.

The research team has oriented its work exclusively to the collection and organization of data for the first 15 months of the project approximately. In the spring of 2018, we have combined a continued effort at data collection with the first analysis of the data and the writing (and presentation) of papers in scientific venues.

The research team has been structured as follows. Each postdoctoral fellow has been assigned to 1 country or set of countries: Chit Basu and Paulo Serôdio to the United Kingdom; Christophe Lévêque and Filip Kostelka to France; Zsuzsanna Magyar to Scandinavia; Marta Curto and Paulo Serôdio to Germany. The data analyst, who has worked with the digitization of maps and data, has provided support to all of them. The two research analysts have worked with all postdocs.

Overall, the project is on track. We have collected electoral, social and economic data on France, Germany, Norway, Sweden, and the United Kingdom for the 19th century up until World War Two. We have also proceeded to match the different types of data using digitized maps or simply lists of administrative and political units. Data collection has taken slightly longer than expected: some data has been hard to obtain (particularly for France); even when the data was available, census recording practices turned out to be quite heterogeneous and/or confusing (in places like Britain or Sweden); matching census data and electoral records required building very detailed maps. Overcoming all these problems has been rather time intensive, delaying our initial plans by a few months.

The current products of our research include the following papers: “Revisiting the Origins of the British Labour Party”; “The Long Shadow of the Cross: Religion and Vote in France”; “Democratizing from Within: British Elites and the Expansion of the Franchise”; “Workers, Unions, and the Rise of Social Democracy in Scandinavia”; and “Parliamentary Unity in the Quasi-State of Nature: Evidence from the French Belle Epoque (1898-1914)”.
Although the first period of the grant has been mainly devoted to data collection, we have already produced the first drafts of several papers. So far, we have made interesting progress in the following areas:

1/ We have written the first paper to examine, employing parliamentary votes for over 100 years, the forces that led political elites to engage in the progressive democratization of Great Britain. The paper makes an original contribution to a literature that has examined democratization through broad cross-country comparisons and without paying enough attention to measure the specific incentives of the actors involved in democratic transitions.

2/ We have started to explore the long-run impact of religion on French electoral behavior (from 1789 until 1940). The paper contributes to an ongoing debate about the role of social identities and ideas in the construction of politics.

3/ We have collected and analyzed data to explore why socialist parties succeeded in Northern Europe yet did not to the same extent in parts of continental Europe.