Evolution of Liberalism


Ancient Greek Democracy

508 BC

Event: The democracy in Ancient Athens was one of the first democracies to exist. However, since the majority of the population wasn't allowed to take part in the decision-making process, ancient Greek democracy didn't represent the principles of liberalism.
Impact: Early democracies provided a starting point for the development of democracy into its current form.

Magna Carta


Event: It is an agreement that solved the conflict between King John and his men over taxes and disputes with the Pope. It is recognized as a cornerstone of the idea of the liberty of citizens.

The content of the Magna Carta was designed to re-balance power between the King and his subjects, especially between King John and the barons. The King conceded the fundamental principle that even as king, he was not above the law. The Magna Carta limits the power of rulers, and introduces the idea of lawful process and the idea of a jury. This simply means the kings would not have as much power as before.
Impact: The Magna Carta led to the constitutional rule of today and also influenced the American Constitution and to the Bill of Rights. Individual rights and freedom is introduced to citizens and prevents unlawful acts.


1400 - 1600

Event: The Renaissance was a time of cultural, social, intellectual, political, and artistic reform. It is often seen as the 'bridge' between the Middle Ages and modern times.
Impact: Humanist thought led to the ideas that human beings are essentially rational and have inherent dignity.

Haudenosaunee Confederacy

1500 - 1776

Event: Considered to be one of the longest continuously existing participatory democracies in the world, this democracy had several key principles including equal participation by citizens and the establishment of rights and freedoms (e.g. freedom of speech, and individual rights and freedoms).
Impact: The Confederacy's Great Law of Peace inspired Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson when they wrote the Constitution of the United States of America.

Reformation (1517 - 1648)

1517 - 1648

Event: Martin Luther, a German pastor, believed that the Church had become corrupt and possessed too much power. He insisted on the reformation of the Church. People began to believe in reason over faith which led to the waning of the Church's power.
Impact: Over the next few years through the influence of humanism, new dominations were constructed according to various ideas, such as decision-making based on reason, which made the power of the Church waned and faith of the rational nature of human beings grew.

Industrial Revolution


Event: Many factors contributed to the Industrial Revolution including a growing acceptance of science and rational thought, improvements in technology, and an increased emphasis on competition.
Impact: Following the Industrial Revolution, most people lived in cities and worked in factories or farmed their own land. They also gained the right to vote and were responsible for their own lives.

The Enlightenment


Event: Feeding off of the ideas of the Renaissance and Reformation, European philosophers helped to support the ideas about human nature that led to the development of what is known as classical liberalism.
Impact: Classical Liberlaism continued to evolve after the Enlightenment but the period of the Enlightenment is responsible for forming many of the principles of classical liberalism.

American Revolutuon


Event: American colonies that were suffering under British rule declared themselves independent from Great Britain and created a form of government controlled by American citizens, as opposed to the British monarchy.
Impact: American colonies declared independence from Great Britain and created a form of government that was controlled by its citizens.

French Revolution


Event: French peasants fought for freedom, equality, and brotherhood after they became fed up with the injustices that the Church and government imposed on them. They wanted freedom from a class structure where the Church and nobility that made up 4% of the population controlled the other 96%.
Impact: Eventually, the Declaration of the Rights of Man was signed in 1789, which recognised liberal rights.

Changes to the Class System


Event:In the past, people remained in the social class they were born into for their whole lives but classical liberalism valued the individual and economic opportunity.
Impact: Today people have the opportunity to better their life, own private property, vote, and work their way into a higher social class. People are also fighting for equality (e.g. the right for same-sex marriage wasn't even considered in the past).