- When did England and France react against democracy?
- Are those societies not the bastions of democracy?
- Are they not the yardsticks by which we need to measure and judge our own democracy?
Iqbal may have been referring to the following developments:
- Democracy did not last for long in France after the famous French Revolution of 1789. Instead, Napoleon Bonaparte became “emperor” in 1804. The country did not go back to democracy even after Napoleon was ousted ten years later.
- In 1830, a “basic” democracy was introduced in France. The king was subjected to a parliament, but the right to choose its members was restricted to a few of the wealthiest male citizens. Even this was met with sarcasm from writers like Stendhal who reportedly said something to the effect that in democracy, heads are “counted” but not weighed.
- In 1848, most male citizens of France, including the work class, were allowed to vote. The elite reacted very strongly against this development. The poet Charles Baudelaire became their mouthpiece, with his anthology The Flowers of Evil in 1857.
- In England too, the right to vote was restricted to the property holders. The Second Bill of Reforms, adopted in 1867, extended the voting right to almost the entire urban population, including the working class. Matthew Arnold was the most prominent intellectual to react against this with a set of lectures, Culture and Anarchy, beginning the same year.