University of London Institute in Paris

9-11 rue de Constantine
75007 Paris

What is the story of democracy in our time? In this talk Simon Reid-Henry (QMUL) will draw upon some of the key ideas (and characters) from his epic history of western democracy since the 1970s (published in June 2019 with Simon & Schuster in the US and John Murrays in the UK) to try to offer some sort of answer to this question. Arguing against the idea that a history of the post-Cold War present should begin with the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, but rather should treat the decline of communism as a critical turning point in an ongoing transformation of the institutions and the manners of the liberal democratic creed, Simon will show how liberalism, capitalism and democracy have each changed in relation to one another over the past half-century. The task, in other words, is not to explain what ‘caused' Brexit and Trump but to understand why both became possible at a particular conjuncture of historical developments.


Simon Reid-Henry is a historical and political geographer at Queen Mary University of London, where he also directs the Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences. He has written widely on the history of political and international thought, with a particular focus in recent years on the intersections of inequality and democracy. He is the author of four books, including The Political Origins of Inequality (University of Chicago Press) and most recently Empire of Democracy: the Remaking of the West since the Cold War (Simon & Schuster). Empire of Democracy has been described as “a colossal and nuanced history of the past half-century” by the Irish Times. “The frontiers of our future can sometimes be discerned by studying the plains of our past,” says the Sunday Business Post: “This book allows the reader to do both.” Simon can be contacted at or on twitter at @sreidhenry.