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6 Grote’s Athens: The Character of Democracy

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Chapter Summary

This chapter first explains the familiar story of George Grote's revolutionary rewriting of Athenian history against the background of his intellectual context, the development of his own thinking, and with a view to his considerable influence on the development of a liberal theory of democracy. Then, it refines the understanding of the ways in which Grote's work can accurately be seen as a product of its time: not in its distortion of historical realities due to liberal democratic bias, but in its surprising retention, in the interpretation of those realities, of a number of peculiarly Victorian ideas, chief among them the notion of character. The chapter ends with a brief discussion of the Nachleben of Grote's Athens, and of the significant impact of Grote's notion of character on the democratic theory of the historian's ally, John Stuart Mill.

Keywords: Athenian history; democracy; George Grote; John Stuart Mill; liberal theory



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