Political Representation: Tensions between Parliament and the People from the Age of Revolutions to the 21st Century

Main funder

Funder's project number: 336709

Funds granted by main funder (€)

  • 798 750,00

Funding program

Project timetable

Project start date: 01/09/2021

Project end date: 31/08/2026


This project conducts a pioneering investigation on historical and present-day constructions of parliamentary legitimacy, analysing inherent tensions between parliamentary representation and popular sovereignty. The applicant writes a long-term synthetizing monograph, exploring (together with an international and interdisciplinary research team) the evolution of parliamentary sovereignty and representation in Northwest European representative democracies between the Age of Revolutions and the present and considering past fragmentations of representation that remind those of our times. Instead of a functionalist approach, we adopt an empirical, source-based, language-sensitive approach to political history, considering national parliaments as nexuses in which multi-sited and
transnational political discourses have criss-crossed each other in the same space and time. We apply computer-assisted analyses to the extensive corpora of digitised parliamentary records from Belgium, Britain, Denmark, France, Finland, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden to locate (previously unnoticed) debates on popular sovereignty and representation. Such analysis of big data proceeding beyond nation states has only become possible by the late 2010s. Our contextualising close reading focuses on the dynamic relationship between political discourses and other forms of political action in national contexts as well as on cross-national transfers. Five interlinked WPs address methodology and four key historical periods: (WP1) combining distant and close reading in the long-term
comparative analysis of political speaking; (WP2) complications in the transition from the representation of the special interests of estates to more individualistic representation of ‘the people’, 1760-1860; (WP3) pressures to democratise parliamentary representation, 1860-1920; (WP4) the inter-war crisis and consolidation of and challenges to national democracy, 1920-1990; (WP5) participation through referenda and social media as challenges to representation since the end of the Cold War. The project implements a contextually sensitive big data analysis to the history of multi-sited political discourse, comparing crises of representation in the long term and providing historical perspectives to inherent tensions between political representation, parliamentary government and popular sovereignty.

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Last updated on 2022-02-08 at 11:58