Comparison by historical period and historical region

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To 1200 BCE


To 600 CE


600 – 1450 CE

Early Modern

1450 – 1750 CE


1750 – 1914 CE


1914 - Present



City-states, regional tribute states; priests ruled first, later kings; hereditary aristocracy; theocracy in Egypt, priests, aristocrats rule

Divine right monarchs, military aristocracy; tribute state, Assyrian, Persian, Hellenistic Empires; smaller trading city-states

Theocratic caliphates, Arab empire, Sunni-Shia schism; wazirs, bureaucracy, sultans aristocracy; mameluk armies; Seljuk, Buyid Fatimid states: no separation faith, state

Multi-ethnic empires, divine right monarchs, harem politics; millet system; Safavids, Ottomans, Mameluks, independent Muslim states in North Africa

Nationalism, reform, westernization divide states; European colonies in North Africa: Muhammad Ali’s Egypt; Sudan’s Madhist state

Collapse of empires, secular nation-states; authoritarian states common, Arab-Israeli conflicts, ethnic strife; Iranian Revolution, terrorism, extremism, Islamic Brotherhood.

Royal absolutism, influence of state relgiions

Role of Islam, Islamic structures is a strong continuity; vies with localism, regionalism and later nationalism



Government by elders, men; feudal rulers, Xia, Shang dynasties; local aristocratic rule; Japan clans, tribal government

Feudal Zhou Dynasty, aristocracy; Qin, Han, centralized empire, shi bureaucracy, mandate

of heaven, Dynastic cycle, Confucianism

China: centralized, Sui, Tang, Song rule, scholar-gentry, local provincial lords strong

Japan Yamato dynasty to Chinese style state, shogun = military rule

Japan: centralized feudalism, shogun with military aristocracy;

China: Ming, Qing Dynasty, traditional Confucian government state enforced isolation

Modernization vies with westernization; Meiji restoration in Japan, empire; China: extraterritoriality, spheres of influence;
Chinese Revolution

Republic: KMT, local warlords vie; civil war; 1949 totalitarian state; Japan military dictatorship to 1945, democratic monarchy; Korea partitioned

Patriarchy, hierarchy, filial piety as role in state structures

Confucian bureaucracy, rule by educated elites, traditional elites, rivalry between central state, provinces


Tribal government; village councils for settled areas; nomads: royal lineages, warrior aristocracy

Chariot Age nomads, Persians, Greeks set up tribute states in area; nomads disrupt settled rule: Kushan, Bactrians

Islam converts area, rule by caliphs; rise of sultans in distant lands; nomadic states create tribute empires: Turks, Mongols

Independent Muslim states in river valleys, nomadic tribute states on steppes; Timurid state briefly unites area

Russian Empire controls area under decentralized, indirect rule; Mongolia, Tibet, Sinkiang tributary to China

Russian, Chinese Revolutions lead to independence; ended by Soviet conquest, Chinese resurgence under Mao; post-1989 states authoritarian

Two separate systems: settled, nomadic government

Introduction of Islam as a model for government, tribal governments; Russification, Sinification strong



City-states, perhaps regional monarchies

Caste government; regional aristocracy republics, Magadha; Indus under SW Asia; Mauryan, Guptan Empire; nomadic tribal states, invasion

Arab Empire rules Indus; Delhi Sultanate under Turks; South India under Hindu rajas

Mughal Empire unites Subcontinent: strife between Muslims, Hindus; European enclaves give way to rule by British East India Company

BEIC struggles with princely states; Sepoy Rebellion; -India ruled by UK as colony; some local self-rule, Indian National Congress, Muslim League

India National Act in 1935; Partition in 1947; India = federal parliamentary democracy; Pakistan = military dictatorship

Caste system dominates once introduced

Sectarian systems competing for state government; strong sense of national, ethnic identities vs European westernization



Tribal governments; Minoan, Mycenaean city-states = royalty, aristocracy

Greek city-states: oligarchy aristocracy, monarchy, democracy; Hellenistic empires; Roman state: republic, tribute empire, idea of citizenship, feudalism develops; loyalty to state, to king, or to church

Feudal states, royalty, aristocracy common; Oligarchy = church states, Italian, German republics, imperial cities; Holy Roman Empire; new kings, bureaucracy; State vs Church, central vs local

Mercantilist overseas empires; divine right absolutism, nation states; centralization, rise of parliaments; social contracts, idea of popular sovereignty, constitutions

Increasing democracy, parliamentary rule; limits on royal power; nationalism; increased suffrage, first political parties, prime minister independent judiciary; socialism, Marxism

Totalitarian, Fascist states; rise of socialist, labor parties; WW II begins decolonization of empires; welfare states; supranational state in EU, trans-national institutions

Greco-Roman model of government, constitution; notion of syncretism, local adaptations

Rise of modern state, nationalism, checks and balances; state replaces religion in life



Tribal government; village councils for settled areas; nomads: royal lineages, warrior aristocracy

Tribal government; village councils for settled areas; nomads: royal lineages, warrior aristocracy; Byzantine in Balkans

Decentralized royal states, aristocracy; Byzantine Empire = centralized state with bureaucracy, Caesaro-papism; state formation period with rulers searching for model to follow

Russia, Austria = centralized empires, local nobility rule; Poland decentralized aristocratic republic with elected monarch; Ottomans in Balkans;

Germany, Austria, Russia rule most of Eastern Europe; nationalism leads to rise of ethnic states in Balkans; Ottomans drive from Balkans

Nationalism, socialism, struggle for control; fascism in many states; Russian Revolution, Marxist-Leninist state, Soviet satellites; post-1989 sees democracy, ethnic tension

Local interests, patterns; weak states often with kings struggling against nobles

Centralization vs localism, ethnic nationalism vie with westernization, Communism, Fascism



To 1200 BCE


To 600 CE


600 – 1450 CE

Early Modern

1450 – 1750 CE


1750 – 1914 CE


1914 - Present


Hunting bands, tribal government; Olmec royal absolutism with aristocracy, priests

Mayan city-states with royal absolutism, nobles, priests; tribute empire in Teotihuacan Hunting bands, tribal government elsewhere

Some empire building in Mayan area; Toltec tribute state; Aztec Empire with royal absolutism, nobles, priests, clan/castes

Spanish model: mercantilist empire, viceroyalty run by Iberian elites, local creoles have local, limited influence; church assists state; limited French, English influence

French, American revolution leads to independence; ideas of centralism, federalism, liberalism struggle; military rule, caudillos

Mexican Revolution, Cuban Revolution; Socialism, Marxism, democracy struggle against military rule; rise of democracy

Tribal states coexist with more centralized royal states; kings powers limited by elites, priests

Decentralized imperial state, issues: centralization, decentralization, reform; minority rights



Stateless societies, tribal government, royal lineages continue throughout history even when complex government arose

Kush Empire modeled on Egypt’s pharaoh; Axum, Ghana: tribute empire; Bantu tribes migrate, tribal structure

Mali, Songhay tribute empires; Muslim models in West, East; Swahili city-states; Kongo kingdom centralized government

Kanem Bornu, Hausa, Zimbabwe = tribute empire; Forest area: gunpowder slaving empires, absolutism, bureaucracy; colonial enclaves on coast

European colonial empires rule Africa: direct, indirect rule; Europeans rule thru local elites; apartheid in South Africa;

Decolonization: 1956-89; most states ruled by tribal, traditional elites, most military or personal dictatorships; nation building, identities thwarted by constant ethnic strife

Weak state structures; power within clans, tribes, chiefs

Tribute empires, local interests and systems, Islamic states

Empires, colonies, resistance, adaptation of western models


Hunting bands, tribal government

City-states with royal absolutism, priestly class, tribute empire

Royal absolutism, split inheritance; priests, aristocrats assist kings; city states, small tribute empires = Chan Chan, Moche

Strong continuity by Incan Empire; rise of small tribute, tribal states in rest of area often with kings; Spanish, Portuguese colonial empires

French, American revolution leads to independence; ideas of centralism, federalism, liberalism struggle; military rule, caudillos

Socialism, Marxism, democracy struggle against military rule; rise of democracy; Peron’s Argentina, Vargas Brazil = state corporatism

Tribal states coexist with more centralized royal states; kings powers limited by elites, priests

Decentralized imperial state, issues: centralization, decentralization, reform; minority rights



Tribal governments;

Rise of royal chiefs, lineages; Vietnam = Chinese province; Funan first tribute empire; Indians bring raja, Indian models but not castes

Tribute empires, trading states with merchant aristocracy; Vietnam empire on Chinese model; Khmer Empire on Indian model

Arrival of Islam brings Muslim models; some tribute states in Siam, Burma; European states est. colonies; Sp = Philippines; Dutch = Indonesia

European empires spread control; direct, indirect rule; only Siam = independent protectorate of UK, Fr.; US in Philippines

Decolonization, strong nationalism; states = military, authoritarian Vietnamese revolution, communist state; new Malaysia, Philippines democratic republics; Islamic extremism

Decentralization, weaker states; outside models from India, China but rarely social classes

Strong influence of Islam, European models; local control by elites, adapting outside models


Hunting bands, tribal government

Hunting bands, tribal government

City-states, tribute states based on Meso-American models: Moundbuilders, Anaszi, Iroquois Confederation

British, French, Dutch settler colonies under royal, charter, and proprietary rule; elite is mercantilist, planter aristocracy; charters, self-government, private property critical

Colonies give way to federal, con-federal democracies; checks, balances, judicial oversight, 3 branches of government, civil rights

Increased suffrage, strong civil rights, strongly anti-central, pro-secular, party democracies; ethnic diversity protected

Tribal structures, a few loose states, confederations; moving towards chiefdoms

Decentralized imperial state

Centralization, local interests; checks, balances, rights


  1. Paleolithic Government

  1. Stateless societies

  2. Tribal governments by strongest, best hunter, best provider, elder

  3. Women often could sit in councils, offer advice, lead

  1. Neolithic Government and Nomadic Councils

  1. Tribal councils dominate by males, largest land owner, owner of most animals in herding societies

  2. City-State: One city controls the agricultural land around it

  3. Nomadic societies often had two classes: aristocratic, commoners with rulers from a royal clan

  1. Ancient and Classical Government

  1. General Types of Government

  1. Monarchy: Rule by King, either elected or inherited

  2. Aristocracy: Rule by nobles born to position

  3. Oligarchy: Rule by a few, often the wealthy, sometimes merchants

  4. Democracy: Direct rule by popular vote; if rule by elected representatives is called a republic

  5. Theocracy: Rule by a god-king of some type such as the pharaoh; Theocratic rule is usually through a priestly class

  6. Gerontocracy: Rule by the elderly, common to East Asia

  1. Empires

  1. Tribute Empire: A large conquest state which allows local rule, autonomy if taxes, tribute paid

  2. Dynastic Rule: A form of monarchy where the ruler is chosen from a common family

  3. Centralized rule: the head of state makes all decisions and rules through bureaucracy, aristocracy

  1. Caste Government

  1. Birth castes determine social leadership

  2. Most associated with South Asia but also common in Andean Americas, Mayan city-states

  1. Bureaucracy

  1. Rule by specialists trained, educated to rule

  2. Bureaucrats can also be military aristocracy, priestly caste

  1. Post-Classical Government

  1. Feudalism

  1. Decentralized rule based on warrior aristocracy, local justice, local control of land

  2. Centralized Feudalism was practiced in Japan by Shoguns, military dictators

  1. Divine Right Monarchy, Divine Right Absolutism

  1. Caliphates, Papal States, Christian Kingdoms of East, West Europe: God-inspired, ordained government

  2. Privy Councils, curia, wazirs, sultans often exercised real power in name

  1. Warrior States

  1. Power exercised through a warrior elite

  2. Tends towards feudalism

  1. Early Modern Government

  1. New Style Monarchs

  1. Often depend on non-traditional class for support, ie middle class in Europe

  2. Exercise control through military, bureaucracy; struggle with traditional elites

  3. Gunpowder States – empires established, ruled through firearms, military technology

  4. Royal absolutism, divine right monarchies are a type

  1. Nation-State, nationalism

  1. Developed in France; a state where one ethnic group dominates the state structure

  2. Ideology of loyalty to a state, ethnic group rather than loyalty to a ruler, religion

  3. Comes to include all classes irrespective of birth

  1. Multi-national state

  1. A state with many ethnic groups, religious groups; nationalism a strong threat to these states

  2. Millet government system in Turkey allowed local religious self-rule

  1. Modern Empires

  1. Settler – mother country attempts to recreate mother culture abroad by sending settlers

  2. Colonialism – control of other states for purposes of economic exploitation

  3. Direct Rule: Distant colonies ruled directly from mother country, capital; often mercantilistic

  4. Indirect Rule: Colony controlled by another power, which permits limited local rule through traditional elites

  1. Constitutional Monarchy

  1. Parliaments or Elective legislative bodies limit royal power

  2. Constitutions limit royal power

  1. Party Politics

  1. Established political parties represent particular interests, groups

  2. Compete for power in political arena

  1. Federalism, Con-federalism

  1. Local territorial units exist with protected rights

  2. Decentralized rule as a check on national power

  1. Modern and Contemporary Government

  1. Modern Democratic State

  1. Full suffrage: all male, female citizens vote for representatives

  2. Socialist, welfare state: government is responsible for social well-being of all citizens; public utilities

  3. Checks and Balances: idea that legislative, executive, judicial branches are independent, check each other

  1. Authoritarian State

  1. Military rule

  2. One man or one party dictatorial rule

  1. Totalitarian State: Elite, secretive mass parties rule through terror, use of modern technology, glorification of leader cult

  1. Fascist, Nazi: State with absolute control of all aspects of society, based on ethnicity, glorification of nation

  2. Communist: State with absolute control of all aspects of society, based on concerns of workers, peasants

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