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Geography (from Greek: γεωγραφία, geographia, literally "earth description")[1] is a field of science devoted to the

study of the lands, features, inhabitants, and phenomena of the Earth and planets.[2] The first person to use the word
γεωγραφία was Eratosthenes (276–194 BC).[3] Geography is an all-encompassing discipline that seeks an understanding
of Earth and its human and natural complexities—not merely where objects are, but also how they have changed and
come to be.
Geography is often defined in terms of two branches: human geography and physical geography.[4][5] Human
geography deals with the study of people and their communities, cultures, economies, and interactions with the
environment by studying their relations with and across space and place.[6] Physical geography deals with the study of
processes and patterns in the natural environment like the atmosphere, hydrosphere, biosphere, and geosphere.
The four historical traditions in geographical research are: spatial analyses of natural and the human phenomena, area
studies of places and regions, studies of human-land relationships, and the Earth sciences.[7] Geography has been called
"the world discipline"[8] and "the bridge between the human and the physical sciences".[9]
Geography is a systematic study of the Universe and its features. Traditionally, geography has been associated
with cartography and place names. Although many geographers are trained in toponymy and cartology, this is not their
main preoccupation. Geographers study the space and the temporal database distribution of phenomena, processes,
and features as well as the interaction of humans and their environment.[10] Because space and place affect a variety of
topics, such as economics, health, climate, plants and animals, geography is highly interdisciplinary. The interdisciplinary
nature of the geographical approach depends on an attentiveness to the relationship between physical and human
phenomena and its spatial patterns.[11]
Names of places...are not geography...know by heart a whole gazetteer full of them would not, in itself, constitute
anyone a geographer. Geography has higher aims than this: it seeks to classify phenomena (alike of the natural and of
the political world, in so far as it treats of the latter), to compare, to generalize, to ascend from effects to causes, and, in
doing so, to trace out the laws of nature and to mark their influences upon man. This is 'a description of the world'—that
is Geography. In a word Geography is a Science—a thing not of mere names but of argument and reason, of cause and
— William Hughes, 1863
Just as all phenomena exist in time and thus have a history, they also exist in space and have a geography.[13]
— United States National Research Council, 1997
Geography as a discipline can be split broadly into two main subsidiary fields: human geography and physical geography.
The former largely focuses on the built environment and how humans create, view, manage, and influence space. The
latter examines the natural environment, and how organisms, climate, soil, water, and landforms produce and
interact.[14] The difference between these approaches led to a third field, environmental geography, which combines
physical and human geography and concerns the interactions between the environment and humans.[10]
Physical geography
Main article: Physical geography
Physical geography (or physiography) focuses on geography as an Earth science. It aims to understand the physical
problems and the issues of lithosphere, hydrosphere, atmosphere, pedosphere, and global flora and fauna patterns
Physical geography can be divided into many broad categories, including:


Climatology & meteorology

Coastal geography

Environmental management




Hydrology & hydrography

Landscape ecology



Quaternary science
Human geography
Main article: Human geography
Human geography is a branch of geography that focuses on the study of patterns and processes that shape the human
society. It encompasses the human, political, cultural, social, and economic aspects.
Human geography can be divided into many broad categories, such as:

Cultural geography

Development geography
Economic geography

Health geography

Historical & Time geog.

Political geog. & Geopolitics

Pop. geog. or Demography

Religion geography
Social geography

Transportation geography

Tourism geography

Urban geography
Various approaches to the study of human geography have also arisen through time and include:
Behavioral geography
Feminist geography
Culture theory
Environmental geography
Main article: Integrated geography
Environmental geography is concerned with the description of the spatial interactions between humans and the natural
world. It requires an understanding of the traditional aspects of physical and human geography, as well as the ways that
human societies conceptualize the environment. Environmental geography has emerged as a bridge between the human
and the physical geography, as a result of the increasing specialisation of the two sub-fields. Furthermore, as human
relationship with the environment has changed as a result of globalization and technological change, a new approach
was needed to understand the changing and dynamic relationship. Examples of areas of research in the environmental
geography include: emergency management, environmental management, sustainability, and political ecology.
Main article: Geomatics
Digital Elevation Model (DEM)
Geomatics is concerned with the application of computers to the traditional spatial techniques used
in cartography and topography. Geomatics emerged from the quantitative revolution in geography in the mid-1950s.
Today, geomatics methods include spatial analysis, geographic information systems (GIS), remote sensing, and global
positioning systems (GPS). Geomatics has led to a revitalization of some geography departments, especially in Northern
America where the subject had a declining status during the 1950s.
Regional geography
Main article: Regional geography
Regional geography is concerned with the description of the unique characteristics of a particular region such as its
natural or human elements. The main aim is to understand, or define the uniqueness, or character of a particular region
that consists of natural as well as human elements. Attention is paid also to regionalization, which covers the proper
techniques of space delimitation into regions.
Related fields
Urban planning, regional planning, and spatial planning: Use the science of geography to assist in determining how to
develop (or not develop) the land to meet particular criteria, such as safety, beauty, economic opportunities, the
preservation of the built or natural heritage, and so on. The planning of towns, cities, and rural areas may be seen
as applied geography.
Regional science: In the 1950s, the regional science movement led by Walter Isard arose to provide a more quantitative
and analytical base to geographical questions, in contrast to the descriptive tendencies of traditional geography
programs. Regional science comprises the body of knowledge in which the spatial dimension plays a fundamental role,
such as regional economics, resource management, location theory, urban and regional
planning, transport and communication, human geography, population distribution, landscape ecology, and
environmental quality.
Interplanetary Sciences: While the discipline of geography is normally concerned with the Earth, the term can also be
informally used to describe the study of other worlds, such as the planets of the Solar System and even beyond. The
study of systems larger than the Earth itself usually forms part of Astronomy or Cosmology. The study of other planets is
usually called planetary science. Alternative terms such as areology (the study of Mars) have been proposed but are not
widely used.
As spatial interrelationships are key to this synoptic science, maps are a key tool. Classical cartography has been joined
by a more modern approach to geographical analysis, computer-based geographic information systems (GIS).
In their study, geographers use four interrelated approaches:
Systematic – Groups geographical knowledge into categories that can be explored globally.
Regional – Examines systematic relationships between categories for a specific region or location on the planet.
Descriptive – Simply specifies the locations of features and populations.
Analytical – Asks why we find features and populations in a specific geographic area.
James Cook's 1770 chart of New Zealand
Main article: Cartography
Cartography studies the representation of the Earth's surface with abstract symbols (map making). Although other
subdisciplines of geography rely on maps for presenting their analyses, the actual making of maps is abstract enough to
be regarded separately. Cartography has grown from a collection of drafting techniques into an actual science.
Cartographers must learn cognitive psychology and ergonomics to understand which symbols convey information about
the Earth most effectively, and behavioural psychology to induce the readers of their maps to act on the information.
They must learn geodesy and fairly advanced mathematics to understand how the shape of the Earth affects the
distortion of map symbols projected onto a flat surface for viewing. It can be said, without much controversy, that
cartography is the seed from which the larger field of geography grew. Most geographers will cite a childhood
fascination with maps as an early sign they would end up in the field.
Geographic information systems
Main article: Geographic information system
Geographic information systems (GIS) deal with the storage of information about the Earth for automatic retrieval by a
computer, in an accurate manner appropriate to the information's purpose. In addition to all of the other subdisciplines
of geography, GIS specialists must understand computer science and database systems. GIS has revolutionized the field
of cartography: nearly all mapmaking is now done with the assistance of some form of GIS software. GIS also refers to
the science of using GIS software and GIS techniques to represent, analyse, and predict the spatial relationships. In this
context, GIS stands for geographic information science.
Remote sensing
Main article: Remote sensing
Remote sensing is the science of obtaining information about Earth features from measurements made at a distance.
Remotely sensed data comes in many forms, such as satellite imagery, aerial photography, and data obtained from
hand-held sensors. Geographers increasingly use remotely sensed data to obtain information about the Earth's land
surface, ocean, and atmosphere, because it: (a) supplies objective information at a variety of spatial scales (local to
global), (b) provides a synoptic view of the area of interest, (c) allows access to distant and inaccessible sites, (d)
provides spectral information outside the visible portion of the electromagnetic spectrum, and (e) facilitates studies of
how features/areas change over time. Remotely sensed data may be analysed either independently of, or in conjunction
with other digital data layers (e.g., in a geographic information system).
Quantitative methods
Main article: Geostatistics
Geostatistics deal with quantitative data analysis, specifically the application of statistical methodology to the
exploration of geographic phenomena. Geostatistics is used extensively in a variety of fields,
including hydrology, geology, petroleum exploration, weather analysis, urban planning, logistics, and epidemiology. The
mathematical basis for geostatistics derives from cluster analysis, linear discriminant analysis and non-parametric
statistical tests, and a variety of other subjects. Applications of geostatistics rely heavily on geographic information
systems, particularly for the interpolation (estimate) of unmeasured points. Geographers are making notable
contributions to the method of quantitative techniques.
Qualitative methods
Main article: Ethnography
Geographic qualitative methods, or ethnographical research techniques, are used by human geographers. In cultural
geography there is a tradition of employing qualitative researchtechniques, also used
in anthropology and sociology. Participant observation and in-depth interviews provide human geographers with
qualitative data.
Main article: History of geography
The oldest known world maps date back to ancient Babylon from the 9th century BC.[15] The best
known Babylonian world map, however, is the Imago Mundi of 600 BC.[16] The map as reconstructed by Eckhard
Unger shows Babylon on the Euphrates, surrounded by a circular landmass showing Assyria, Urartu[17] and several
cities, in turn surrounded by a "bitter river" (Oceanus), with seven islands arranged around it so as to form a seven-
pointed star. The accompanying text mentions seven outer regions beyond the encircling ocean. The descriptions of five
of them have survived.[18] In contrast to the Imago Mundi, an earlier Babylonian world map dating back to the 9th
century BC depicted Babylon as being further north from the center of the world, though it is not certain what that
center was supposed to represent.[15]
The ideas of Anaximander (c. 610–545 BC): considered by later Greek writers to be the true founder of geography, come
to us through fragments quoted by his successors. Anaximander is credited with the invention of the gnomon, the
simple, yet efficient Greek instrument that allowed the early measurement of latitude. Thales is also credited with the
prediction of eclipses. The foundations of geography can be traced to the ancient cultures, such as the ancient,
medieval, and early modern Chinese. The Greeks, who were the first to explore geography as both art and science,
achieved this through Cartography, Philosophy, and Literature, or through Mathematics. There is some debate about
who was the first person to assert that the Earth is spherical in shape, with the credit going either
to Parmenides or Pythagoras. Anaxagoras was able to demonstrate that the profile of the Earth was circular by
explaining eclipses. However, he still believed that the Earth was a flat disk, as did many of his contemporaries. One of
the first estimates of the radius of the Earth was made by Eratosthenes.[19]
The first rigorous system of latitude and longitude lines is credited to Hipparchus. He employed a sexagesimal system
that was derived from Babylonian mathematics. The meridians were sub-divided into 360°, with each degree further
subdivided into 60 (minutes). To measure the longitude at different locations on Earth, he suggested using eclipses to
determine the relative difference in time.[20] The extensive mapping by the Romans as they explored new lands would
later provide a high level of information for Ptolemy to construct detailed atlases. He extended the work of Hipparchus,
using a grid system on his maps and adopting a length of 56.5 miles for a degree.[21]
From the 3rd century onwards, Chinese methods of geographical study and writing of geographical literature became
much more comprehensive than what was found in Europe at the time (until the 13th century).[22] Chinese
geographers such as Liu An, Pei Xiu, Jia Dan, Shen Kuo, Fan Chengda, Zhou Daguan, and Xu Xiake wrote important
treatises, yet by the 17th century advanced ideas and methods of Western-style geography were adopted in China.

The Ptolemy world map, reconstituted from Ptolemy's Geographia, written c. 150
During the Middle Ages, the fall of the Roman empire led to a shift in the evolution of geography from Europe to
the Islamic world.[22] Muslim geographers such as Muhammad al-Idrisi produced detailed world maps (such as Tabula
Rogeriana), while other geographers such as Yaqut al-Hamawi, Abu Rayhan Biruni, Ibn Battuta, and Ibn
Khaldun provided detailed accounts of their journeys and the geography of the regions they visited. Turkish
geographer, Mahmud al-Kashgari drew a world map on a linguistic basis, and later so did Piri Reis (Piri Reis map).
Further, Islamic scholars translated and interpreted the earlier works of the Romans and the Greeks and established
the House of Wisdom in Baghdad for this purpose.[23] Abū Zayd al-Balkhī, originally from Balkh, founded the "Balkhī
school" of terrestrial mapping in Baghdad.[24]Suhrāb, a late tenth century Muslim geographer accompanied a book of
geographical coordinates, with instructions for making a rectangular world map with equirectangular projection or
cylindrical equidistant projection.[24][verification needed]
Abu Rayhan Biruni (976–1048) first described a polar equi-azimuthal equidistant projection of the celestial
sphere.[25] He was regarded as the most skilled when it came to mapping cities and measuring the distances between
them, which he did for many cities in the Middle Eastand the Indian subcontinent. He often combined astronomical
readings and mathematical equations, in order to develop methods of pin-pointing locations by recording degrees
of latitude and longitude. He also developed similar techniques when it came to measuring the heights of mountains,
depths of the valleys, and expanse of the horizon. He also discussed human geography and the planetary habitability of
the Earth. He also calculated the latitude of Kath, Khwarezm, using the maximum altitude of the Sun, and solved a
complex geodesic equation in order to accurately compute the Earth's circumference, which was close to modern values
of the Earth's circumference.[26] His estimate of 6,339.9 km for the Earth radius was only 16.8 km less than the modern
value of 6,356.7 km. In contrast to his predecessors, who measured the Earth's circumference by sighting the Sun
simultaneously from two different locations, al-Biruni developed a new method of using trigonometric calculations,
based on the angle between a plain and mountain top, which yielded more accurate measurements of the Earth's
circumference, and made it possible for it to be measured by a single person from a single location.[27]
Self portrait of Alexander von Humboldt, one of the early pioneers of geography as an academic subject in modern sense
The European Age of Discovery during the 16th and the 17th centuries, where many new lands were discovered and
accounts by European explorers such as Christopher Columbus, Marco Polo, and James Cook revived a desire for both
accurate geographic detail, and more solid theoretical foundations in Europe. The problem facing both explorers and
geographers was finding the latitude and longitude of a geographic location. The problem of latitude was solved long
ago but that of longitude remained; agreeing on what zero meridian should be was only part of the problem. It was left
to John Harrison to solve it by inventing the chronometer H-4 in 1760, and later in 1884 for the International Meridian
Conference to adopt by convention the Greenwich meridian as zero meridian.[28]
The 18th and the 19th centuries were the times when geography became recognized as a discrete academic discipline,
and became part of a typical university curriculum in Europe (especially Paris and Berlin). The development of many
geographic societies also occurred during the 19th century, with the foundations of the Société de Géographie in
1821,[29] the Royal Geographical Society in 1830,[30] Russian Geographical Society in 1845,[31] American Geographical
Society in 1851,[32] and the National Geographic Society in 1888.[33] The influence of Immanuel Kant, Alexander von
Humboldt, Carl Ritter, and Paul Vidal de la Blache can be seen as a major turning point in geography from a philosophy
to an academic subject.
Over the past two centuries, the advancements in technology with computers have led to the development
of geomatics and new practices such as participant observation and geostatistics being incorporated into geography's
portfolio of tools. In the West during the 20th century, the discipline of geography went through four major
phases: environmental determinism, regional geography, the quantitative revolution, and critical geography. The strong
interdisciplinary links between geography and the sciences of geology and botany, as well
as economics, sociology and demographics have also grown greatly, especially as a result of earth system science that
seeks to understand the world in a holistic view.

Anaximander has been called the father of astronomy, because he was the first thinker who developed a cosmology
using mathematical proportions to map the heavens.
Anaximander was born in Miletus and might have been a pupil of the philosopher Thales. Anaximander explained the
origin of the universe with the theory of 'apeiron'. 'The universe is boundless but consists of a primary substance'.
Anaximander wrote on geography, astronomy, cosmology and biology. He believed that human infants were at first
produced in a fishlike creature - an early form of evolutionary thinking.
The Founding Fathers Of Ancient Geography
These early scholars contributed much to the growing discipline of geography.
The earliest world maps date back to the 9th century BC in ancient Babylon. However, these maps were basic regional
maps and were laden with errors and exaggerations. Ancient Greece saw the birth of the study of geography and with it
the first true world maps. Some historians point Anaximander, a 4th century BC Greek scholar as the true founder of the
study of geography. However, four individuals are considered the founding fathers of ancient geography due to their
contributions to the discipline; Eratosthenes, Strabo, Claudius Ptolemy, and Muhammad al-Idrisi.
Eratosthenes was a 2nd century BC Greek scholar who is credited as the founder of the discipline of geography.
Eratosthenes is believed to have been born in 276 BC in Cyrene and was the chief librarian at the Library of Alexandria.
The works of this geographer became the foundations of the study of geography. The geographer used his knowledge of
the earth, which he obtained from the mapping studies done by professionals before him, to come up with a map of the
world in his publication “Geographika.” The book introduced the term “geography” to the world. The geographer died in
194 BC but left behind a collection of books, many of which were lost during the Destruction of the Alexandria Library. A
man of many firsts, Eratosthenes is also credited with the first world map in history, which was of impressive accuracy,
as well as determining the tilt of the Earth’s axis. Some historians believe that Eratosthenes was responsible for the leap
day, and accurately determined the distance between the Sun and the Earth. One particularly impressive feat by
Eratosthenes was that he was able to determine the circumference of the earth with remarkable accuracy without even
traveling from Egypt. The geographer used the length of the shadows at noon and the sun’s rays to come up with a
formula that enabled him to calculate the earth’s circumference which according to him was 27,402 miles. This
measurement was used for hundreds of years and was even studied by Christopher Columbus 17 centuries after the
death of Eratosthenes.
3. Strabo
Another founding father of the discipline of geography was Strabo, a 1st Century CE Greek scholar who lived in the
Amaseia in modern-day Turkey. Strabo’s best-known work was his “Geographical” publication in which he drew a
relatively accurate map of the world as it was known to him. The book was among the first to outline the study of
geography in history. Continental Europe and the Mediterranean were well defined in Strabo’s map. The accuracy of the
“Geographica” book was unchallenged for hundreds of years and was widely reproduced in the Byzantine Empire. Unlike
Eratosthenes, Strabo was well-traveled and had visited Kush and Egypt, and had journeyed as far as Ethiopia and Asia
Minor. The works of Strabo were influenced by earlier Greek scholars such as Hipparchus and Eratosthenes, with Strabo
citing the two in his publications.
2. Ptolemy
Ptolemy was a 1st century CE astronomer and geographer from the Roman Empire. The geographer is believed to have
been born in 100 AD in Egypt. Ptolemy’s name suggests that he was born as a Roman citizen but of either Hellenized
Egyptian or Greek ancestry. Ancient Arabic sources referred to Ptolemy as “Batlamyus” from Upper Egypt. Many of
Ptolemy’s works inspired younger geographers and were used for many centuries after his death. Ptolemy’s map of the
world was quite accurate considering the technology of the time and showed countries as far out as China (Sinae) and
Sri Lanka (Taprobane). As one of the founding fathers of ancient geography, Ptolemy is credited with the book
“Geographia.” In the book, the geographer exercised the concept of segmenting the globe using a grid of longitudes and
latitudes. Ptolemy’s model was the forerunner of modern map-making as it also measured latitudes from the “climata,”
the word he gave for the equator. One of the Ptolemy’s most famous books was the Almagest, which focused on
astronomy. The publication has one of the most exhaustive star catalogs of the pre-modern era. The star catalog in the
Almagest was based on a similar catalog by an earlier astronomer, Hipparchus. The catalog was made up of 48-star
constellations that were visible to the pre-modern astronomer. The list of star constellations made the Almagest a book
of great import to astronomers in Europe and Arabia in the medieval era.
1. Al Idrisi
Al-Idrisi was a 12th-century Arabic geographer, who was best known for one of the most accurate geographical maps of
the ancient world. The geographer was born in 1100 AD in Ceuta, a town which was then under Almoravids, to a family
that claimed to be direct descendants of Prophet Muhammad. The geographer’s ancestors forcefully settled in Ceuta
after the Zirids of Granada defeated Hammudid Malaga. In his youth, Al-Idrisi spent most of his time traveling and was
able to explore many regions in Europe including Pyrenees and Jorvik, and North Africa. The geographer also traveled to
Cordoba where he received his education. Al-Idrisi would later move to Palermo, Sicily under King Roger II. The
geographer died in 1165 in his ancestral town of Ceuta at the age of 64 or 65 years. Al-Idrisi was among the founders of
geography, with one of the earliest accurate maps being attributed to him. The map is known as the “Tabula Rogeriana,”
was based on navigation information from Islamic merchants and earlier Islamic maps. The map was drawn in 1154 and
is the first to show the whole of Eurasia and part of North Africa. The accuracy exhibited in the Tabula Rogeriana was
remarkable considering the ancient technology employed by Al-Idrisi. Besides, the geographer also published a book
entitled, “Kitab nuzhat al-Mushtaq fi’khtiraq al-‘afaq,” in which he outlined geographic information about the world. Al-
Idrisi credited Claudius Ptolemy for the geographical coordinates used in his publication. The map was used for hundreds
of years after his death, with prominent explorers of later years such as Vasco da Gama and Christopher Columbus using
the map for navigation.
This page was last updated on May 14, 2018.
By Joseph Kiprop

Eratosthenes (2010-01-24). Eratosthenes' Geography. Translated by Roller, Duane W. Princeton University

Press. ISBN 978-0-691-14267-8.
Pidwirny, Dr. Michael; Jones, Scott. "Chapter 1: Introduction to Physical Geography". University
of British Columbia Okanagan. Retrieved 10 November2016.
^ Bonnett, Alastair (2008). What is Geography?. SAGE Publications. ISBN 978-1-84920-649-5. Retrieved 10
November 2016.
^ Johnston, Ron (2000). "Human Geography". In Johnston, Ron; Gregory, Derek; Pratt, Geraldine; et al. The Dictionary of
Human Geography. Oxford: Blackwell. pp. 353–360.

Politics (from Greek: πολιτικά, translit. Politiká, meaning "affairs of the cities") refers to a set of activities associated with
the governance of a country, or an area. It involves making decisions that apply to members of a group.[1]
It refers to achieving and exercising positions of governance—organized control over a human community, particularly
a state.[2] The academic study focusing on just politics, which is therefore more targeted than general political science,
is sometimes referred to as politology (not to be confused with politicology, a synonym of political science).
In modern nation-states, people have formed political parties to represent their ideas. They agree to take the same
position on many issues and agree to support the same changes to law and the same leaders.[3]
An election is usually a competition between different parties.[4] Some examples of political parties worldwide are:
the African National Congress (ANC) in South Africa, the Conservative in the United Kingdom, the Christian Democratic
Union (CDU) in Germany and the Indian National Congress in India.
Politics is a multifaceted word. It has a set of fairly specific meanings that are descriptive and nonjudgmental (such as
"the art or science of government" and "political principles"), but does often colloquially carry a negative
connotation.[1][5][6] The word has been used negatively for many years: the British national anthem as published in
1745 calls on God to "Confound their politics",[7] and the phrase "play politics", for example, has been in use since at
least 1853, when abolitionist Wendell Phillips declared: "We do not play politics; anti-slavery is no half-jest with us."[8]
A variety of methods are deployed in politics, which include promoting one's own political views among
people, negotiation with other political subjects, making laws, and exercising force, including warfare against
adversaries.[9][10][11][12][13] Politics is exercised on a wide range of social levels, from clans and tribes of traditional
societies, through modern local governments, companies and institutions up to sovereign states, to the international
A political system is a framework which defines acceptable political methods within a given society. The history of
political thought can be traced back to early antiquity, with seminal works such
as Plato's Republic, Aristotle's Politics and the works of Confucius.

Women voter outreach from 1935.

The word comes from the same Greek word from which the title of Aristotle's book Politics (Πολιτικά, Polis) also
derives; polismeans "affairs of the cities". The book title was rendered in Early Modern English in the mid-15th century
as "Polettiques";[14] it became "politics" in Modern English. The singular politic first attested in English 1430 and comes
from Middle French politique, in turn from Latin politicus,[15] which is the Latinization of the Greek πολιτικός (politikos),
meaning amongst others "of, for, or relating to citizens", "civil", "civic", "belonging to the state",[16] in turn from
πολίτης (polites), "citizen"[16] and that from πόλις (polis), "city".[16]
Ancient influences
Analyses of politics appeared in ancient cultures in works by various thinkers, including Confucius (551–479 BC) in China
and Kautilya(flourished 300 BC) in India. Writings by the historian Ibn Khaldūn (1332–1406) in North Africa have greatly
influenced the study of politics in the Arabic-speaking world. But the fullest explication of politics has been in the West.
Some have identified Plato (428/427–348/347 BC), whose ideal of a stable republic still yields insights and metaphors, as
the first political scientist, though most consider Aristotle (384–322 BC), who introduced empirical observation into the
study of politics, to be the discipline’s true founder.
Aristotle’s students gathered descriptions of 158 Greek city-states, which Aristotle used to formulate his famous sixfold
typology of political systems. He distinguished political systems by the number of persons ruling (one, few, or many) and
by whether the form was legitimate(rulers governing in the interests of all) or corrupt (rulers governing in their own
interests). Legitimate systems included monarchy (rule by one), aristocracy (rule by the few), and polity (rule by the
many), while corresponding corrupt forms were tyranny, oligarchy, and democracy. Aristotle considered democracy to
be the worst form of government, though in his classification it meant mob rule. The best form of government, a polity,
was, in contemporary terms, akin to an efficient, stable democracy. Aristotle presciently noted that a polity functions
best if the middle class is large, a point confirmed by modern empirical findings. Aristotle’s classification endured for
centuries and is still helpful in understanding political systems.
Plato and Aristotle focused on perfecting the polis (city-state), a tiny political entity, which for the Greeks meant both
society and political system. The conquest of the Mediterranean world and beyond by Aristotle’s pupil Alexander the
Great (336–323 BC) and, after his death, the division of his empire among his generals brought large new political forms,
in which society and political system came to be seen as separate entities. This shift required a new understanding of
politics. Hellenistic thinkers, especially the Stoics, asserted the existence of a natural lawthat applied to all human beings
equally; this idea became the foundation of Roman legalism and Christian notions of equality (seeStoicism). Thus, the
Roman orator Marcus Tullius Cicero (106–43 BC), who was strongly influenced by the Stoics, was noteworthy for his
belief that all human beings, regardless of their wealth or citizenship, possessed an equal moral worth.
Early Christian thinkers, such as St. Augustine (354–430), emphasized the dual loyalty of Christians to both God and
temporal rulers, with the clear implication that the “heavenly city” is more important and durable than the earthly one.
With this came an otherworldly disdain for politics. For eight centuries knowledge of Aristotle was lost to Europe but
preserved by Arab philosophers such as al-Fārābī (c. 878–c. 950) and Averroës (1126–1198). Translations of Aristotle in
Spain under the Moors revitalized European thought after about 1200. St. Thomas Aquinas (1224/25–1274)
Christianized Aristotle’s Politics to lend it moral purpose. Aquinas took from Aristotle the idea that humans are both
rational and social, that states occur naturally, and that government can improve humans spiritually. Thus, Aquinas
favoured monarchy but despised tyranny, arguing that kingly authority should be limited by law and used for
the common good. The Italian poet and philosopher Dante (1265–1321) argued in De monarchia (c. 1313; On Monarchy)
for a single world government. At the same time, the philosopher Marsilius of Padua (c.1280–c. 1343), in Defensor
Pacis (1324; “Defender of the Peace”), introduced secularization by elevating the state over the church as the originator
of laws. For this, as well as for proposing that legislators be elected, Marsilius ranks as an important modernizer.
The first modern political scientist was the Italian writer Niccolò Machiavelli (1469–1527). His infamous work The
Prince (1531), a treatiseoriginally dedicated to Florence’s ruler, Lorenzo di Piero de’ Medici, presented amoral advice to
actual and would-be princes on the best means of acquiring and holding on to political power. Machiavelli’s political
philosophy, which completed the secularization of politics begun by Marsilius, was based on reason rather than religion.
An early Italian patriot, Machiavelli believed that Italy could be unified and its foreign occupiers expelled only by ruthless
and single-minded princes who rejected any moral constraints on their power. Machiavelli introduced the modern idea
of power—how to get it and how to use it—as the crux of politics, a viewpoint shared by today’s international relations
“realists,” rational choice theorists, and others. Machiavelli thus ranks alongside Aristotle as a founder of political
The English philosopher Thomas Hobbes (1588–1679) also placed power at the centre of his political analysis.
In Leviathan; or, The Matter, Form, and Power of a Commonwealth, Ecclesiastical and Civil (1651), completed near the
end of the English Civil Wars (1642–51), Hobbes outlined, without reference to an all-powerful God, how humans,
endowed with a natural right to self-preservation but living in an anarchic state of nature, would be driven by fear of
violent death to form a civil society and submit to a single sovereign authority (a monarch) to ensure their peace and
security through a social contract—an actual or hypothetical agreement between citizens and their rulers that defines
the rights and duties of each. English philosopher John Locke (1632–1704), who also witnessed the turmoil of an English
civil war—the Glorious Revolution (1688–89)—argued in his influential Two Treatises on Civil Government (1690) that
people form governments through a social contract to preserve their inalienable natural rights to “life, liberty, and
property.” He further maintained that any government that fails to secure the natural rights of its citizens may properly
be overthrown. Locke’s views were a powerful force in the intellectual life of 18th-century colonial
America and constituted the philosophical basis of the American Declaration of Independence (1776), many of whose
drafters, particularly Thomas Jefferson (1743–1826), were well acquainted with Locke’s writings.
If Hobbes was the conservative of the “contractualists” and Locke the liberal, then the French philosopher Jean-Jacques
Rousseau (1712–78) was the radical. Rousseau’s The Social Contract (1762) constructs a civil society in which the
separate wills of individuals are combined to govern as the “general will” (volonté générale) of the collective that
overrides individual wills, “forcing a man to be free.” Rousseau’s radical vision was embraced by French revolutionaries
and later by totalitarians, who distorted many of his philosophical lessons.
Politics had long been studied in American universities, but usually as part of the curricula of law, philosophy, or
economics. Political science as a separate discipline in universities in the United States dates from 1880, when John W.
Burgess, after studying at the École Libre in Paris, established a school of political science at Columbia University in New
York City. Although political science faculties grew unevenly after 1900, by the 1920s most major institutions had
established new departments, variously named political science, government, or politics.