Introduction: The New England Town Meeting: A Founding Myth of American Democracy


Notwithstanding notable exceptions, historical investigation is far from central in deliberative scholarship and even recent work on participatory research stresses the need for more historical work. The aim of our introduction to this collective volume is to assess and to draw attention to the contribution of historical analysis in the current scholarly debate on democracy, in particular regarding the ways in which participation and deliberation emerge and develop in New England’s famous town meetings. Town meetings have traditionally been cited as one of the fullest and earliest realizations of the idea of democratic government and of deliberation at work. Nowadays the great debate on deliberative and participatory democracy has contributed to restoring the town meetings as a symbol of democratic deliberation. The critical study of how one of the oldest and most inspiring forms of democratic participation has evolved is not only a fascinating endeavor in itself, it is also a unique opportunity to better understand how and to what extent these institutional practices, inspired by ideals of deliberation and participation, can support – or impede – the democratization of today’s societies.


New England Town Meeting

How to Cite

Cossart P. & Felicetti A. & Kloppenberg J., (2019) “Introduction: The New England Town Meeting: A Founding Myth of American Democracy”, Journal of Public Deliberation 15(2). doi:







Paula Cossart (Institut Universitaire de France)
Andrea Felicetti (KU Leuven)
James Kloppenberg (Harvard University)



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