Map of World Governments

Forms of Governments A-Z

Here follows in a nutshell and alphabetically a list of the various systems of government, their definition, origin of the word, and examples in history.

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1999 Map of World Governments

National Constitution Center

What's the Definition of Government?

A system according to which a nation, state, or community is administered, regulated, and governed.

From Latin gubernare = to direct, rule, guide, govern


If a sovereign oppresses his people to a great degree, they will rise and cut off his head. There is a remedy in human nature against tyranny, that will keep us safe under every form of government.

Samuel Johnson in James Boswell's The Life of Samuel Johnson, 1791



  Absolute and unlimited government exercised by a monarch, despot, or dictator. The ruler answers to God alone. And that only on a rainy day.

Arguably one of the best examples of absolutism was the French monarch  Louis XIV. Another example of absolutism was Adolf Hitler.

  Absolute government.
Supreme, self-sustained, independent [political] power.

Origin of the Word autocracy

From Greek = autokrateia = ruling by oneself.
From auto = self, one's own, by oneself, independently, and krateia = might, power, authority

Examples of Autocracies in History

Classical autocracy can be studied in the case of Nicholas I, the Russian emperor from 1825 to 1855.  He gave direct orders, expected absolute obedience, and there was no one who ruled the country but him.

If you're Catholic, you believe that the Pope has supreme power over all matters of faith and moral. Thus, his is a case of religious autocracy.

  Absence of government.
No authority, no government, no ruler.

Anarchism, then, really, stands for the liberation of the human mind from the dominion of religion; the liberation of the human body from the dominion of property; liberation from the shackles and restraints of government.

Emma Goldman, 1910

Origin of the Word anarchy

From Greek = anarkhia = lack of a leader, the state of people without a government
From an = without, and arkhos = leader

Examples of Anarchies in History

Historians regard twenty years in the history of the United Kingdom as a period of anarchy. These were the years from 1135 to 1154. Although there were rulers, their rule was disputed and as a result civil disturbances followed.

Similarly, the word anarchy is used to describe the general situation at Athens, after the Spartans had introduced the Thirty Tyrants as Athens' government in 404 BC. Although there was a government it was not accepted as such and civil unrest ensued.

This, however, is not the political situation anarchists refer to. Anarchy, as political philosophy, is a theoretical social state in which there is no governing person or body of persons, but each individual has absolute liberty, without implication of disorder.

See more under Communism - What is Anarchism.

  Social system based on collective ownership.

China is a communist state, for example.

See more under What is Communism?

  Alliance of political powers.
A bond or connection between families, states, parties, or individuals for certain common purposes.

Origin of the Word confederation

From Latin confoederare = to unite by a league
From com = with, together, and foederare, from foedus (gen. foederis) = a league

Examples of Confederations in History

The Aetolian League and the Achaean League in ancient Greece are examples of confederations in history.

See more under Ancient Greeks.

After the Holy Roman Empire had collapsed in 1806, Germany was re-organized as the German Confederation, just to hold something together.

The Confederate States of America existed from 1861 to 1865.


Government by the people.

Form of government in which the sovereign power resides in the people as a whole, and is exercised either directly by them (direct democracy) or by officers elected by them.

Democracy means government by discussion, but it is only effective if you can stop people talking.

Clement Attlee, 1957

Origin of the Word democracy

From Greek = demokratia - popular government.
From demos  = the commons, the people, and kratos = rule, sway, authority.

Examples of Democracies in History

Although slavery was common in ancient Athens, this city-state had a democratic form of government.

See more under Ancient Greeks - Democracy

  or Despotocracy: The rule of a despot.
Any ruler who governs absolutely or tyrannically.

Origin of the Word despotism

From Greek = despotis = master, lord, despot

Examples of Despotism in History

Despotism usually carries a negative meaning. But not always. There were also the "enlightened despots," such as Frederick II the Great,  Peter I the Great, Catherine II the Great, and Maria Theresa for example.

  or dictatorialism, dictatory, dictature:
Ruled by a dictator or, in case of a female dictator, dictatrix.

Dictator - one who has absolute power or authority.

Dictators ride to and fro upon tigers which they dare not dismount. And the tigers are getting hungry.

Sir Winston Churchill, 1937

Origin of the Word dictator

From Latin dicto / dictare = to dictate, say, tell, remind, suggest
In this context = To prescribe a course or object of action, To lay down authoritatively, To order, or command in express terms

Examples of Dictatorship in History

In the Roman Republic a dictator was appointed in times of great crisis. Once the crisis had been overcome, the dictator laid down his dictatorship. One of these dictators, Quintus Hortensius, was appointed in 287 BC to end the struggle between plebeians and patricians. Julius Caesar was dictator from 46 to 44 BC.

In modern history, the word dictator carries a negative vibe.

Porfirio Diaz' dictatorship in Mexico was called the Porfiriato.

Adolf Hitler added a new dimension to the term dictator.

Other dictators in recent history were Benito Mussolini of Italy, Enrique Peralta Azurdia of Guatemala, or Nicolae Ceausescu of Romania. Unfortunately, this list is by no means exhaustive.

  Rule or territory of an emperor or empress.

Origin of the Word empire

From Latin imperium = rule, command,
and from imperare = to command

Examples of Emperors and Empires in History

In the Roman Republic, a very successful general could become imperator. Julius Caesar was one of them. However, he was never emperor of an empire, only dictator of a republic.


The Emperor Penguin can grow up to 50 inches or 130 cm and has absolutely nothing to do with this.

In the Roman Empire, the rulers adopted the proper name Caesar as part of their title. The title caesar developed into the German word kaiser and the Russian word tsar, or czar.

Kaiser Wilhelm II (William II) was Germany's last emperor.

Tsar Nicholas II was Russia's last emperor.

  A right-wing authoritarian system.

See more under What is Fascism?

  A political entity formed by a number of separate states, each retaining control of its own internal affairs.

Origin of the Word federation

From Latin foederare = league together, and from foedus = covenant, league, hence = union by agreement

Examples of Federations in History

Russia is a federation, and so is Canada.

The United States Constitution sets up a federal system of government. Each one of the 50 state governments has their own governor and their own constitution, as well as extensive authority. But coining money, for instance, is reserved for the federal, also called national, government.

  A lord owns land or property, and lets his vassals or tenants use it in return for service, e.g. military or financially.

Origin of the Word feudal

From Latin feudum = fief or fee

Examples of Feudalism in History

The feudal system could be found in Europe from about the 5th to the 15th century. Magna Carta regulated feudal law.

Here's a map

Map of Germany 1176
1176 Germany

  Governed by a monarch, i.e. a king, queen, emperor, or empress.

Origin of the Word monarchy

From Greek  = monarkhia = rule of one
From monos = alone and arkhein = to rule

Examples of Monarchies in History

Back in the days, a monarch was the sole ruler of a state with absolute power.

In case of a constitutional monarchy, the monarch has to share powers with a constitutionally organized government. Constitutional monarchies today are set up for example in Belgium, Britain, Cambodia, Canada, Jordan, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, and Thailand.

  Government by the few.
Authority is confined to a small, elite group.

Origin of the Word oligarchy

From Greek = oligarkhia = government by the few
From oligoi = few, small, little, and arkhein = to rule

Examples of Oligarchies in History

Whenever there is a bunch of people with concentrated wealth and power, these guys usually try to defend and protect their privileges. If they become rulers, or oligarchs, their rule can, but doesn't necessarily have to be, detrimental.

Due to controversy regarding the exact definition and application of the term, it is difficult to list examples of oligarchies in history.

  A state in which supreme power rests in the people through their elected representatives, as opposed to a state with a hereditary line of leadership.

Origin of the Word republic

From Latin respublica = public interest, the state
From res = affair, matter, thing, and publica = public

Examples of Republics in History

Today, the world's smallest republic is the Republic of Nauru in the Pacific Ocean, with 21 square kilometers or 8 square miles.

According to the CIA's World Factbook, the United States has a constitution-based federal republic with a strong democratic tradition.


  A system of government which tolerates only one political party.

Totalitarian governments demand the complete subservience of the individual to the State, there is no individual freedom.

Origin of the Word totalitarianism

Mussolini coined the term. Hence, from Italian totalitario = complete, absolute, total

Examples of Totalitarianism in History

Adolf Hitler
Party: Nazi Party
In full: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei
(National Socialist German Workers' Party)

Benito Mussolini
Party: PNF
In full: Partito Nazionale Fascista
(National Fascist Party)

Josef Stalin
Party: CPSU
In full: Kommunisticheskaya Partiya Sovetskogo Soyuza
(Communist Party of the Soviet Union)

  An absolute or despotic government.
The rule of a tyrant or tyranness.

Origin of the Word tyranny

From Greek = tyrannos = tyrant = master, sovereign, lord, absolute ruler

Examples of Tyrannies in History

The term tyrant can refer to a cruel, oppressive, or unjust ruler. Or it can refer to someone who rules without having the legal right to do so, an usurper. Or it can refer to both, of course.

Dionysius I the Elder made himself tyrant of Syracuse in 405 BC.

Should you decide to kill a tyrant, you will commit tyrannicide.



Go here for all Governments in History.




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Wars, Battles & Revolutions in History


Gilgamesh - His City, His People, His Epic


There is danger from all men. The only maxim of a free government ought to be to trust no man living with power to endanger the public liberty.

John Adams, 1772


Greco-Persian Wars
Also called the Persian Wars, the Greco-Persian Wars were fought for almost half a century from 492 to 449 BC. Greece won against enormous odds. Here is more:

Battle of Marathon
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Mexican Revolution

The Mexican Revolution

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Mexico's transition from dictatorship to constitutional republic translated into ten messy years of skirmishing in Mexican history.

More from the Mexican Revolution:

Pancho Villa

Emiliano Zapata

Francisco I. Madero

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Women in the Mexican Revolution

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They that are discontented under monarchy, call it tyranny; and they that are displeased with aristocracy, call it oligarchy: so also, they which find themselves grieved under a democracy, call it anarchy, which signifies the want of government; and yet I think no man believes, that want of government, is any new kind of government.

Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan, 1651



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Where some people are very wealthy and others have nothing, the result will be either extreme democracy or absolute oligarchy, or despotism will come from either of those excesses.

Aristotle (384-322 BC) in Politics











































































































French Revolution - Its Causes, Its Victims, Its Effects


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