Development of Liberalism


Ancient Greek Democracy

Approx. 507 BC - Approx. 404 BCE

Beginning in Athens, Greece, a system called "demokratia" was implemented by the Athenian leader, Cleisthenes. Ruling by the people of Greece was the defining feature of this system and it changed the way the government functioned. Representatives from different tribes began to write the laws and jurors were responsible for arguing cases. Although the people ruled, only the male citizens held this right. Each man was able to enjoy a role in politics, freedom of speech and equality.

Because of Ancient Greek Democracy...
-The right to vote was granted to the selected population, advancing rights and freedoms and taking power away from a singular government representative.
-Male citizens had the right to act and speak freely. Although these freedoms did not apply to everyone, it was a step towards classical liberalism.
-Many people became equal before the law. Later on, the rule of law would impact greatly classical liberalism.

Magna Carta


The Magna Carta was a result of King John using taxes from the nobility towards war, which was not won. Many were not content with this predicament and took matters into their own hands. The absolute powers of the king were directly challenged when rebel barons created the Articles of Barons. Civil war was a threat to King John, so he accepted the documents. Later becoming the Magna Carta, the Articles of Barons granted many the power, overcoming the strict political setting. Along with many other rights, the document became a charter of liberties for the people.

Because of the Magna Carta...
-The rule of law was practiced. The need for English sovereigns to be held accountable just like everyone else inspired this practice of legal equality.
-Rights were given to the people. The Bill of rights later took undertones from this document.
-Freedoms were also granted in the Magna Carta, however the existing feudal system created a limit to exercising such freedoms.


1300 - 1500

The Renaissance was a period filled with advancement. The arts and sciences were reborn along with the perspectives of people within Europe. The use of reasoning, observation and pursuing intellectual studies all contributed the the morphing of ideologies. Humanists were born and dictated ideals relating to ethics. Beliefs of human worth were pushed by humanists and this influenced other's perspectives. This causes a decline of the feudal system and progress in multiple areas of study.

Because of the Renaissance...
-Individualism developed and people were inspired to create their own ideas
-Human worth was recognized, implying the idea that people should have rights and freedoms in order to maintain dignity.

Haudenosaunee Confederacy

1400 - 1776

The Creator sent a prophet, Peacemaker, to spread good among the Haudenosaunee people. The Peacemaker travelled to many communities, teaching the people the Great Law of Peace. Peacemaker convinced each chief of the communities to join the Great League of Peace. The confederacy was united by these chiefs who became the chiefs of the confederacy. The goal of the confederacy was to spread unity, harmony and democracy among the Haudenosaunee people. The six nations involved are Seneca, Cayuga, Oneida, Onondaga, Mohawk, Tuscarora.

Because of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy...
-Leaders were elected by the communities, allowing everyone the possibility for equal contribution in the government.
-Rule of law was enforced. The laws from Peacemaker were the same for every Haudenosaunee person and each person was held accountable for they actions the same way.
-Haudenosaunee people had more rights and freedoms, including the right of equality and political participation.
-There was a basis for rights within a democracy-type situation that was later used to help form the American Constitution


1517 - 1648

Before reformation, it was common thought that there was too much power among the Roman Catholic church. The church had far too many privileges that were allowing it to take advantage of its religious position. People like Martin Luther believed that the church was corrupt and that it was necessary to redistribute this power to more reliable people. This caused a religious revolution and major changes to the church. Reformation was the basis for protestantism.

Because of Reformation...
-People began to believe that rational thinking and reasonable decisions were available to humans
-power was taken from the church and redistributed to many people
-Right of equality was established. There was now equality between all believers and the clergy were not more valuable or above others.


1685 - 1815

The Enlightenment is also known as the “Age of Reason”. Traditional authority was being questioned by people classified as enlightenment thinkers. They thought that change could be beneficial to society. American and French revolutions were a result of this type of forward thinking. Different thinkers had unique philosophies on the nature of humans and how the world should function, how it would thrive.

Because of the Enlightenment...
-Human rights were being thought of by enlightenment thinkers. Boundaries were being pushed on this subject.
-Many thinkers promoted a government run by the people
-Some thinkers believed that people should have a right to own private property
-Rights and freedoms were desired, thanks the most thinkers. Enlightenment thinkers imagined rights to live freely and equally
-Competition was seen in a positive light. Thinkers thought that competition would benefit all of society.
-Economic freedom was thought to be beneficial.
-Rule of law became crucial part of many people's ideologies

Industrial Revolution

Approx. 1760 - Approx. 1840

the Industrial Revolution was a massive movement that pushed a departure from a classic handcraft economy to a new spread of machine manufacturing. Because of the increased use of machines, less employment was needed agriculturally and more product could be produced with less manual involvement. Many factory jobs were available and a great amount of people made their lives this way. The Industrial Revolution resulted in many technological advances. Science, energy, transportation and materials are only a few subjects that were improved upon or even replaced during this time. Because of the many technological advances, the economic format changed. People began to move to the cities, there was a large working class and international trade was implemented.

Because of the Industrial Revolution...
-Many people owned private property.
-People became responsible for themselves and their families.
-The right to vote was granted to many people, including them in politics while also granting them more basic rights.
-There was much more economic freedom. The government was leaving the economy to function more on its own and competition arose.
-Companies were willing to risk more for the sake of competition.
-People were much more equal under the law because of the rich demand for power.

American Revolution

1775 - 1783

Before the American Revolution, tensions were building in the thirteen colonies. Britain had been ruling over these colonies and many Americans, mostly rebels, were beginning to be upset about the lack of representation and freedom of the colonies. The British were seeking an increase in control over the colonies, however the thirteen colonies did not share this desire. The idea of independence from Britain caused a group of rebels to start a revolution. The affair was civil, until other countries like the Netherlands, Spain and France took the side of the Americans. Thanks to their help, the Americans managed to force the British to surrender.

Because of the American Revolution...
-People believed in their rights. The Americans fought for the right to be represented in the government .
-The country became sovereign. Another aspect of classical liberalism is brought to light by the desire of the Americans to control their own government.
-Free trade became possible. Before american independence, the British controlled the colonies trade and often limited it.
-The Declaration of Independence was written, ensuring rights and freedoms for the Americans.

French Revolution

1789 - 1799

The french revolution was primarily caused by the distinct class system, limiting the vast majority of the population, and the excessive spending by King Louis XVI. Bankruptcy was a very possible threat for the country and this furthered the tensions. Many French citizens, influenced by Enlightenment thinkers, revolted in oppose to the Feudal system and the concentrated form of government. They desired a change that would bring politics in the hands of the people and increased equality among these same people. One of the first major events that kicked off the revolution was the storming of the Bastille, a fortress, prison and armoury.

Because of the French revolution...
-People became equal in front of the law and shared more rights regarding equality.
-The Declaration of the Rights of Man was written, guaranteeing people necessary rights to live freely, like freedom of religion, freedom of speech, and the right to participate in the government.

Changes to the Class System

Approx. 1800

Changes to the class system in the 19th century caused the feudal system to be abolished and created a more economically situated class system. People did not have to be born into a certain class, but had opportunity to change their situation. People were now encouraged by opportunities in the economy to work hard and thrive. If people were wealthy enough to own property, through family money or new money, they could then vote. Although classes were still in existence, there were possibilities to seize opportunities and progress

Because of changes to the class system...
-There was economic freedom. The freedom of the economy was what allowed people to move between classes.
-Self-interest developed because wealth became the defining quality.
-People owned private property