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The History of Debating!

From Ancient Greek democracy, to modern parliamentary debating, read on to learn about how debating continues to shape the world long after it began...

I think everyone can agree that debating has become a pretty typical part of our every-day lives. From watching parliamentary debates on the news to debating topical issues among friends, debating is something that touches everyone.

But what actually is debating?

The English Speaking Union defines a debate as...

"an organised argument or contest of ideas in which participants discuss a topic – usually philosophical, social, and/or political in nature, and often a pressing matter in current affairs – from two opposing sides in a controlled, civil setting."

Debates are typically between...

A Proposition side- Agreeing with the motion
An Opposition side- Disagreeing with the motion

Debating has a long history which can be seen across many different cultures and societies.

                                                  Debating in the Ancient World:

  • Different forms of debating can be traced back to Ancient Greece and India where philosophers, scholars and intellectuals would use early forms of debating to develop their ideas.
  • In Ancient Rome, debating was used as a means of military strategisation to ensure success on the battlefield.

                                                   Debating in the Modern World:
  • Modern forms of debating were developed during the Enlightenment, a period of the 18th century, which saw an increase in the use of democratic practices.
  • Nowadays, debate is all around us from political sparring on TV and Prime Minister’s Questions to competitive debating between Universities and beyond!

                               So how has debating impacted the Modern World?

  • Debating helps facilitate and propel social change.
  • The abolition of slavery in the UK in 1833 was the result of intense debating within Parliament and political circles at large.
  • Debates have ensured global security and safety in the post-WW2 era through the United Nations, its security council and the various agencies that stem from it.
  • Without such debates, many of the world’s conflicts and crises may not have been resolved.
  • Whilst debating does not always mean a positive outcome, it has meant that all perspectives can be heard.

The history of debating serves to highlight the importance of collaboration and discussion for social and political progress.

Whilst the history of debating extends long into the past, we can be assured that its importance will continue to stretch into the distant future as we grapple with new challenges to humanity and our existence.