Popular Petitioning and Mass Democracy in the United States: a history

Associate Professor Timothy Verhoeven

About the project

This project aims to investigate the neglected history of popular petitioning in the United States.

Across the long nineteenth century, activists organized mass petition campaigns in support of causes as diverse as antislavery, suffrage and immigration restriction. In the twentieth century, however, petitioning dwindled. The project draws on this rich archive of activism to assess the role, impact and evolution of petitioning as a democratic tool. The expected outcome is a new perspective on a vital development: the emergence of mass democracy. Furthermore, the project could provide a critical historical framework for assessing modern-day claims about the digital petition and its power to bridge the gulf between citizens and government.

This project is funded by an Australian Research Council Future Fellowship