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Svend-Erik Skaaning


Current position: Professor, Department of Political Science, Aarhus University, Denmark

During his Jens Christian Skou Junior Fellowship, Professor Svend-Erik Skaaning worked on the project "The Rise of Modern Democracy".

Project at AIAS

Although much scholarly work has been devoted to what has been termed the first wave of democratization, this literature has a number of shortcomings. First, most previous studies of the early history of modern democracy have primarily been occupied with the changes in and differences between dominant understandings of democracy rather than if citizens actually enjoyed the democratic rights in practice. Second, studies of single countries have dominated previous works, meaning that comparative attempts to reveal more general patterns are lacking. Third, the few comparative studies have mostly taken an aggregate and rather crisp view of democracy. Against this backdrop, I propose the following research question: What were the dominant patterns of democratic sequencing during the first wave of democratization? In my attempt to answer this question, I address each of the emphasized limitations. First, the project will have an explicit focus on de facto respect for democratic rights during the ‘long nineteenth century’ (here: 1789-1920) rather than merely de jure regulations and the history of democratic ideas. Moreover, the project will have a broad comparative perspective, covering all Western countries, i.e., Europe and the Americas, which are the parts of the world where we find the more interesting variation and developments in the period of interest.

Short bio

Svend-Erik Skaaning is a professor of Political Science at Aarhus University and co-principal investigator of the Varieties of Democracy (V-Dem) project. Currently he is an AIAS Jens Christian Skou Fellow at Aarhus Institute of Advanced Studies. His research interests include the definition, measurement, and explanation of democracy and the rule of law and comparative methodology. He has published eight books and more than 40 research papers on these and related issues. Skaaning has been a visiting scholar at Stanford University, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Harvard University, and Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin.

Project title:

The Rise of Modern Democracy

Area of research:

Political Science and Government

Fellowship period:

01 Oct 2016 – 30 Sep 2017