I have recently read a book called “Political Order and Political Decay”. There were lots of little historical tidbits of how we have come to where we are today. I have put a review of that book on Medium.
You mentioned English Law. According to this author, English law (which later became the legal model for all western European cultures) came from two sources. The first is the English traditions of how the common people dealt with the aristicracy: the commoners had more rights than in other European countries. The second is the Catholic Church. For some reason in its early history, the church decided to codify all its edicts and bulls and precedents into one set of laws to be administered throughout the church. The law of unintended consequences came into the picture in that political thinkers of those times saw the legal apparatus of the Church as a model for secular society as well. Combine that with the English traditions, we get a pretty good legal code where “rule of law” dominates societal thinking. And a good rule of law creates better societies. And this rule-of-law matured before English democracy.
I can’t speak too much about most democracies of Europe pre-WW2. I just don’t know enough. But you did mention Slovakia (I am of Slovak heritage). From about 1000 to 1848, the Slovaks were the underclass of the Hungarian aristocracy. In the early 1800s, Slovaks began asserting themselves within the Habsburg Empire (of which Hungary reluctantly belonged). In 1848, like many parts of Europe, the Habsburgs did cede some authority to a people’s parliament of which the Slovaks could elect and send 9 members to. This the first time Slovaks could participate in national affairs, albeit this parliament was of an advisory nature.
Then in 1868, the Hungarians became stronger politically. In order to keep the Empire, the Hapsburgs ceded a lot of control back to the Hungarians, who then started to oppress the Slovaks more than historical norms. In fact, there was a formal decree to extinguish the Slovak language and culture, similar to what English had done to Ireland and Scotland with the Celts. When the Hapsburg Empire was dismantled in 1918, Slovakia was joined with Moravia and Bohemia — and this was first time Slovakia was under some kind of democracy.
BTW, my great-grandfather got about 60 hectares of farmland after WW1. That land used to belong to a Hungarian aristocrat.
My sense of European history is that the upper classes had some version of democracy, but the lower classes did not. And rule-of-law was a hodge-podge across Western Europe in those times.