Judging Democracy: Jurors, Voters, and the Construction of Equal Citizens


ACLS Fellowship Program




Today we believe that the duties of voters and of jurors diverge: the preferences of partisan voters bear little resemblance to jury verdicts. Yet these two main activities of citizens have been linked since antiquity, largely because both served the aim of producing local knowledge. Although self-informing juries scarcely endured into the fourteenth century, the requirement of vicinage - choosing jurors from the surrounding community - persists, because of the value of local and lay knowledge for the production of justice. Similarly, the expansion of suffrage - in democracies and non-democracies alike - derived from the value of local information to rulers. The proposed project draws on these historical developments to construct a new justification for democracy.