Democracy in Darkness: Secrecy and Transparency in the Age of Revolutions

November 16, 2023

7:00 p.m. ET

Virtual Event | Free

Does democracy die in darkness, as the saying suggests? This book reveals that modern democracy was born in secrecy, despite the widespread conviction that transparency was its very essence.

In the years preceding the American and French revolutions, state secrecy came to be seen as despotic—an instrument of monarchy. But as revolutionaries sought to fashion representative government, they faced a dilemma. In a context where gaining public trust seemed to demand transparency, was secrecy ever legitimate? Whether in Philadelphia or Paris, establishing popular sovereignty required navigating between an ideological imperative to eradicate secrets from the state and a practical need to limit transparency in government. The fight over this—dividing revolutionaries and vexing founders—would determine the nature of the world’s first representative democracies.

Unveiling modern democracy’s surprisingly shadowy origins, Carter reshapes our understanding of how government by and for the people emerged during the Age of Revolutions.

Dr. Katlyn Marie Carter is a political and intellectual historian of the eighteenth-century Atlantic World, specializing in the American and French Revolutions. Her research focuses on the origins of modern representative democracy through the study of political practices and institutions. Dr. Carter is an Assistant Professor of History at the University of Notre Dame.

Closed captioning will be provided.


Nov 16 2023


7:00 pm - 8:30 pm

More Info

Read More


The Library Company of Philadelphia
1300 Locust St., 1:15 pm – 2:15 pm


The Library Company of Philadelphia
Translate »
Scroll to Top