While deliberative democracy has often been presented as a new solution to the ills affecting representative government, the question of its historical precedents should however be tackled more directly. Deliberative experiments are often understood as ‘democratic innovations’, while the novelty of these political practices is hardly ever questioned seriously. While deliberative democrats often evoke some mythical past experiments (Athenian direct democracy, New England town meetings), it seems that a more systematic historical glance is necessary. Have comparable cases of citizen deliberation been observed in the past? At what time and in which context have they emerged? What type of contemporary lessons can be learnt from the study of the past? The aim of this panel is both to question past deliberative experiments using contemporary concepts and to illuminate contemporary theoretical debates in the light of past deliberative institutions.