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republic: Wikis


A republic is a form of government in which the people or some portion thereof retain supreme control over the government,[1][2] and in which the head of government is not a monarch.[3][4] The word "republic" is derived from the Latin phrase res publica, which can be translated as "a public affair".

Both modern and ancient republics vary widely in their ideology and composition. The most common definition of a republic is a state without a monarch.[3][4] In republics such as the United States and France, the executive is legitimized both by a constitution and by popular suffrage. In the United States, James Madison defined republic in terms of representative democracy as opposed to direct democracy,[5] and this usage is still employed by many viewing themselves as "democrats".[6] Montesquieu included both democracies, where all the people have a share in rule, and aristocracies or oligarchies, where only some of the people rule, as republican forms of government.[7] In modern political science, republicanism refers to a specific ideology that is based on civic virtue and is considered distinct from ideologies such as liberalism.[8]

Most often a republic is a sovereign country, but there are also subnational entities that are referred to as republics, or which have governments that are described as "republican" in nature. For instance, Article IV of the Constitution of the United States "guarantee[s] to every State in this Union a Republican form of Government."[9] The Soviet Union was a single nation composed of distinct and nominally sovereign Soviet Socialist Republics.

Niccolò Machiavelli described the governance and foundation of the ideal republic in his work Discourses on Livy. These writings, as well as those of his contemporaries such as Leonardo Bruni, are the foundation of the ideology political scientists call republicanism.[10][11]


Origin of the term

The idea of a republic first appeared in the writings of Italian scholars of the Renaissance, most importantly Machiavelli.[10][12] Machiavelli divided governments into two types, principalities ruled by a monarch and republics ruled by the people.[13][14]

In medieval Northern Italy a number of city states had commune or signoria based governments. In the late Middle Ages, writers, such as Giovanni Villani, began thinking about the nature of these states and the differences from the more common monarchies. These early writers used terms such as libertas populi to describe the states. The terminology changed in the 15th century as the renewed interest in the writings of Ancient Greece and Rome caused writers to prefer using classical terminology. To describe non-monarchial states writers, most importantly Leonardo Bruni, adopted the Latin word res publica.[15]

While Bruni and Machiavelli used the term to describe the non-monarchial states of Northern Italy, res publica has a set of interrelated meanings in the original Latin. The term can quite literally be translated as "public matter".[16] It was most often used by Roman writers to refer to the state and government, even during the period of the Roman Empire.[17] The English word commonwealth derives from a direct translation of res publica, and its use in English is closer to how the Romans used the term res publica.[11]

Today the term republic still most commonly means a system of government which derives its power from the people rather than from another basis, such as heredity or divine right. This remains the primary definition of republic in most contexts.

This bipartite division of government types differs from the classical sources, and also the earlier of Machiavelli's own works, which divided governments into three types: monarchy, aristocracy, and democracy. As Machiavelli wrote, the distinction between an aristocracy ruled by a select elite and a democracy ruled by a council appointed by the people became cumbersome. By the time Machiavelli began work on The Prince, he had decided to refer to both aristocracy and democracies as republics.[18]

A further set of meanings for the term comes from the Greek word politeia. Cicero, among other Latin writers, translated politeia as res publica and it was in turn translated by Renaissance scholars as republic. This is not a very accurate translation and the term politeia is today usually translated as form of government or regime. One continued use of this archaic translation is the title of Plato's major work on political science. In Greek it was titled Politeia and in English is thus known as The Republic. This naming is preserved for historic reasons, but is not considered accurate. Within the text of modern translations of The Republic, alternative translations of politeia are used.[19]

In English the word first came to prominence during The Protectorate era of Oliver Cromwell.[20] While commonwealth was the most common term to call the new monarchless state, republic was also in common use.[20]


Until modern times, the form of government for almost all states was monarchy.[21][22] During the classical period the Mediterranean region was home to several states that are now known as the classical republics.

Several republics also developed during the Middle Ages in the merchant dominated city states.

Classical republics

The concept of the "republic" itself was not a meaningful concept in the classical world.[23] There are number of states of the classical era that are today by convention called republics. These include the city states of ancient Greece such as Athens and Sparta[24] and the Roman Republic. The structure and governance of these states was very different from that of any modern republic.[25] There is a debate about whether the classical, medieval, and modern republics form a historic continuum.[16] JGA Pocock has played a central role,[16] arguing that there is a distinct republican tradition that stretches from the classical world to the present.[10] Other scholars disagree.[16] Paul Rahe, for instance, argues that the classical republics had a form of government with few links to those in any modern country.[24]

The political philosophy of the classical republics has had a central influence on republican thought throughout the subsequent centuries. A number of classical writers discussed forms of government alternative to monarchies and later writers have treated these as foundational works on the nature of republics. Philosophers and politicians advocating for republics, such as Machiavelli, Montesquieu, Adams, and Madison, relied heavily on these sources.

Aristotle's Politics discusses various forms of government. One form Aristotle named politeia consisted of a mixture of the other forms he argued this was one of the ideal forms of government. Polybius expanded on many of these ideas, again focusing on the idea of mixed government. The most important Roman work in this tradition is Cicero's De re publica.

Over time the classical republics were either conquered by empires or became one themselves. Most of the Greek republics were annexed to the Macedonian Empire of Alexander. The Roman Republic expanded dramatically conquering the other states of the Mediterranean that could be considered republics, such as Carthaginian Republic. The Roman Republic itself then became the Roman Empire.

Other ancient republics

In the pre-modern period republics are generally considered to have been a solely European phenomenon, and states in other parts of the world with similar governments are not generally referred to as republics.[16] Some early states outside of Europe had governments that are sometimes today considered similar to republics. In the ancient Near East, a number of cities of the Eastern Mediterranean achieved collective rule. Arwad has been cited as one of the earliest known examples of a republic, in which the people, rather than a monarch, are described as sovereign.[26] The Israelite confederation of the era before the United Monarchy has also been considered a type of republic.[16][18]

One part of the world where much attention has been paid ancient republics is India. In the early 20th century a number of Indian scholars, most notably as KP Jayaswal, argued that a number of states of ancient India had republican forms of government.[27] There are no surviving constitutions or works of political philosophy from this period in Indian history. The forms of government thus need to be deduced, mostly from the surviving religious texts. These texts do refer to a number of states having Gaṇa sangha, or council-based, as opposed to monarchial governments.

A second form of evidence comes from Greeks writing about India during the period of contact following the conquests of Alexander. Greek writers about India such as Megasthenes and Arrian describe many of the states there to have republican governments akin to those of Greece.[28] Beginning around 700 BCE republics developed in a band running along the Indus Valley in the northwest and along the Ganges Plain in the northeast. They were mainly small states, though some confederations of republics seem to have formed that covered large areas, such as Vajji, which had Vaishali as its capital around 600 BCE.[29]

As in Greece, the republican era came to an end in the 4th century with the rise of a monarchial empire. The Maurya Empire conquered almost the entire subcontinent, ending the autonomy of the small republics. Some did remain republics under Mauryan suzerainty, or returned to being republics after the fall of the empire. Madra, for instance, survived as a republic until the 4th century CE. The final end of republics in India came with the rise of the Gupta Empire, and an associated philosophy of the divine nature of monarchy.

Mercantile republics

File:Giovanni Battista Tiepolo
Giovan Battista Tiepolo, Neptune offers the wealth of the sea to Venice, 1748–50. This painting is an allegory of the power of the Republic of Venice.

In Europe new republics appeared in the late Middle Ages when a number of small states embraced republican systems of government. These were generally small, but wealthy, trading states in which the merchant class had risen to prominence. Haakonssen notes that, by the Renaissance, Europe was divided with those states controlled by a landed elite being monarchies and those controlled by a commercial elite being republics.[11]

Across Europe a wealthy merchant class developed in the important trading cities. Despite their wealth they had little power in the feudal system dominated by the rural land owners, and across Europe began to advocate for their own privileges and powers. The more centralized states, such as France and England, granted limited city charters.

In the more loosely governed Holy Roman Empire, 51 of the largest towns became free imperial cities. While still under the dominion of the Holy Roman Emperor most power was held locally and many adopted republican forms of government.[30] The same rights to imperial immediacy were secured by the major trading cities of Switzerland. The towns and villages of alpine Switzerland had, courtesy of geography, also been largely excluded from central control. Unlike Italy and Germany, much of the rural area was thus not controlled by feudal barons, but by independent farmers who also used communal forms of government. When the Habsburgs tried to reassert control over the region both rural farmers and town merchants joined the rebellion. The Swiss were victorious, and the Swiss Confederacy was proclaimed, and Switzerland has retained a republican form of government to the present.[31]

Italy was the most densely populated area of Europe, and also one with the weakest central government. Many of the towns thus gained considerable independence and adopted commune forms of government. Completely free of feudal control, the Italian city-states expanded, gaining control of the rural hinterland.[30] The two most powerful were the Republic of Venice and its rival the Republic of Genoa. Each were large trading ports, and further expanded by using naval power to control large parts of the Mediterranean. It was in Italy that an ideology advocating for republics first developed. Writers such as Bartholomew of Lucca, Brunetto Latini, Marsilius of Padua, and Leonardo Bruni saw the medieval city-states as heirs to the legacy of Greece and Rome.

Two Northern Russian cities with powerful merchant class — Novgorod and Pskov — also adopted republican forms of government in 12th and 13th centuries, respectively, which ended when the republics were conquered by Moscow in the 20th[citation needed] century.

The dominant form of government for these early republics was control by a limited council of elite patricians. In those areas that held elections, property qualifications or guild membership limited both who could vote and who could run. In many states no direct elections were held and council members were hereditary or appointed by the existing council. This left the great majority of the population without political power, and riots and revolts by the lower classes were common. The late Middle Ages saw more than 200 such risings in the towns of the Holy Roman Empire.[32] Similar revolts occurred in Italy, notably the Ciompi Revolt in Florence.

Protestant republics

While the classical writers had been the primary ideological source for the republics of Italy, in Northern Europe, the Protestant Reformation would be used as justification for establishing new republics.[33] Most important was Calvinist theology, which developed in the Swiss Confederacy, one of the largest and most powerful of the medieval republics. John Calvin did not call for the abolition of monarchy, but he advanced the doctrine that the faithful had the right to overthrow irreligious monarchs.[34] Calvinism also espoused a fierce egalitarianism and an opposition to hierarchy. Advocacy for republics appeared in the writings of the Huguenots during the French Wars of Religion.[35]

Calvinism played an important role in the republican revolts in Britain and the Netherlands. Like the city-states of Italy and the Hanseatic League, both were important trading centres, with a large merchant class prospering from the trade with the New World. Large parts of the population of both areas also embraced Calvinism. The Dutch Revolt, beginning in 1568, saw the Dutch Republic reject the rule of Habsburg Spain in a conflict that lasted until 1648.

In 1641 the English Civil War began. Spearheaded by the Puritans and funded by the merchants of London, the revolt was a success, and King Charles I was executed. In England James Harrington, Algernon Sydney, and John Milton became some of the first writers to argue for rejecting monarchy and embracing a republican form of government. The English Commonwealth was short lived, and the monarchy soon restored. The Dutch Republic continued in name until 1795, but by the mid 18th century the stadholder had become a de facto monarch. Calvinists were also some of the earliest settlers of the British and Dutch colonies of North America.

Liberal republics

File:Place de la République -
An allegory of the Republic in Paris

Along with these initial republican revolts, early modern Europe also saw a great increase in monarchial power. The era of absolute monarchy replaced the limited and decentralized monarchies that had existed in most of the Middle Ages. It also saw a reaction against the total control of the monarch as a series of writers created the ideology known as liberalism.

Most of these Enlightenment thinkers were far more interested in ideas of constitutional monarchy than in republics. The Cromwell regime had discredited republicanism, and most thinkers felt that republics ended in either anarchy or tyranny.[36] Thus philosophers like Voltaire opposed absolutism while at the same time being strongly pro-monarchy.

flag from the early 1800s]]
File:Upprop för republik
A revolutionary Republican hand-written bill from the Stockholm riots during the Revolutions of 1848, reading: "Dethrone Oscar he is not fit to be a king rather the Republic! The Reform! down with the Royal house, long live Aftonbladet! death to the king / Republic Republic the people. Brunkeberg this evening". The writer's identity is unknown.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Montesquieu praised republics, and looked on the city-states of Greece as a model. However, both also felt that a nation-state like France, with 20 million people, would be impossible to govern as a republic. Rousseau described his ideal political structure of small self-governing communes. Montesquieu felt that a city-state should ideally be a republic, but maintained that a limited monarchy was better suited to a large nation.

The American Revolution thus began as a rejection only of the authority of British parliament over the colonies. The failure of the British monarch to protect the colonies from what they considered the infringement of their rights to representative government, and the monarch's branding of those requesting redress as traitors compounded by sending combat troops to demonstrate authority resulted in widespread perception of the British monarchy as tyrannical. With the Declaration of Independence the leaders of the revolt firmly rejected the monarchy and embraced republicanism. The leaders of the revolution were well versed in the writings of the French liberal thinkers, and also in history of the classical republics. John Adams had notably written a book on republics throughout history. In addition, the widely distributed and popularly read-aloud tract Common Sense, by Thomas Paine, succinctly and eloquently laid out the case for republican ideals and independence to the larger public. The Constitution of the United States ratified in 1789 created a relatively strong federal republic to replace the relatively weak confederation under the first attempt at a national government with the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union ratified in 1783. The first ten amendments to the Constitution, called the United States Bill of Rights, guaranteed certain natural rights fundamental to republican ideals that justified the Revolution.

The French Revolution was also not republican at its outset. Only after the Flight to Varennes removed most of the remaining sympathy for the king was a republic declared and Louis XVI sent to the guillotine. The stunning success of France in the French Revolutionary Wars saw republics spread by force of arms across much of Europe as a series of client republics were set up across the continent. The rise of Napoleon saw the end of the First French Republic, and his eventual defeat allowed the victorious monarchies to put an end to many of the oldest republics on the continent, including Venice, Genoa, and the Dutch.

Outside of Europe another group of republics was created as the Napoleonic Wars allowed the states of Latin America to gain their independence. Liberal ideology had only a limited impact on these new republics. The main impetus was the local European descended Creole population in conflict with the Peninsulares governors sent from overseas. The majority of the population in most of Latin America was of either African or Amerindian decent, and the Creole elite had little interest in giving these groups power and broad-based popular sovereignty. Simón Bolívar was both the main instigator of the revolts and one of its most important theorists was sympathetic to liberal ideals, but felt that Latin America lacked the social cohesion for such a system to function and advocated autocracy as necessary.

In Mexico this autocracy briefly took the form of a monarchy in the First Mexican Empire. Due to the Peninsular War, the Portuguese court was relocated to Brazil in 1808. Brazil gained independence as a monarchy in September 7, 1822, and the Empire of Brazil lasted until 1889. In the other states various forms of autocratic republic existed until most were liberalized at the end of the 20th century.[37]

The Second French Republic was created in 1848, and the Third French Republic in 1871. Spain briefly became the First Spanish Republic, but the monarchy was soon restored. By the start of the 20th century France and Switzerland remained the only republics in Europe. Before World War I, the Portuguese Republic, established by the revolution of October 5, 1910, was the first of the 20th century. This would encourage new republics in the aftermath of the war, when several of the largest European empires collapsed. The German Empire, Austro-Hungarian Empire, Russian Empire, and Ottoman Empire were then replaced by republics. New states gained independence during this turmoil, and many of these, such as Ireland, Poland, Finland and Czechoslovakia, chose republican forms of government. In 1931, the Second Spanish Republic (1931–1939) turned into a civil war would be the prelude of World War II.

Republican ideas were spreading, especially in Asia. The United States began to have considerable influence in East Asia in the later part of the 19th century, with Protestant missionaries playing a central role. The liberal and republican writers of the west also exerted influence. These combined with native Confucian inspired political philosophy that had long argued that the populace had the right to reject unjust government that had lost the Mandate of Heaven.

Two short lived republics were proclaimed in East Asia, the Republic of Formosa and the First Philippine Republic. China had seen considerable anti-Qing sentiment, and a number of protest movements developed calling for constitutional monarchy. The most important leader of these efforts was Sun Yat-sen, whose Three Principles of the People combined American, European, and Chinese ideas. The Republic of China was proclaimed on January 1, 1912.

Socialist republics

See also Socialist state

Strictly speaking, any real or hypothetical state organized along the principles of socialism may be called a socialist state. The term "socialist republic" is used by those socialists who wish to emphasize that they favour a republican form of government. Furthermore, since socialism purports to represent the interests of the working class, many socialists refer to a state organized according to their principles as a workers' state.

Communist republics

See also People's Republic

Communist states such as Vietnam require that their leaders adhere to that ideology and to the line of the Communist party.[citation needed] However, most of these states allow independent politicians (non-affiliated).[citation needed]


In the years following World War II, most of the remaining European colonies gained their independence, and most became republics. The two largest colonial powers were France and the United Kingdom. Republican France encouraged the establishment of republics in its former colonies. Great Britain attempted to follow the model it had for its earlier settler colonies of creating independent commonwealth realms still linked under the same monarchy. While most of the settler colonies and the smaller states of the Caribbean retained this system, it was rejected by the newly independent countries in Africa and Asia, which revised their constitutions and became republics.

Britain followed a different model in the Middle East; it installed local monarchies in several colonies and mandates including Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman, Yemen and Libya. In subsequent decades revolutions and coups overthrew a number of monarchs and installed republics. Several monarchies remain, and the Middle East is the only part of the world where several large states are ruled by monarchs with almost complete political control.[38]

Islamic republics

Islamic political philosophy has a long history of opposition to absolute monarchy, notably in the work of Al-Farabi. Sharia law took precedence over the will of the ruler, and electing rulers by means of the Shura was an important doctrine. While the early caliphate maintained the principles of an elected ruler, later states became hereditary or military dictatorships though many maintained some pretense of a consultative shura.

None of these states are typically referred to as republics. The current usage of republic in Muslim countries is borrowed from the western meaning, adopted into the language in the late 19th century.[39] The 20th century saw republicanism become an important idea in much of the Middle East, as monarchies were removed in many states of the region. Some such as Iraq and Turkey became secular republics. Some nations, such as Indonesia and Azerbaijan, began as secular. In Iran, the 1979 revolution overthrew the monarchy and created an Islamic Republic based the ideas of Islamic democracy.

Head of state


With no monarch, most modern republics use the title president for the head of state. Originally used to refer to the presiding officer of a committee or governing body in Great Britain the usage was also applied to political leaders, including the leaders of some of the Thirteen Colonies (originally Virginia in 1608); in full, the "President of the Council."[40] The first republic to adopt the title was the United States of America. Keeping its usage as the head of a committee the President of the Continental Congress was the leader of the original congress. When the new constitution was written the title of President of the United States was conferred on the head of the new executive branch. Today almost all republics use the title president for the head of state.

If the head of state of a republic is also the head of government, this is called a presidential system. There are a number of forms of presidential government. A full-presidential system has a president with substantial authority and a central political role. The United States was the first example of such a system, and the basis for the model adopted elsewhere. In other states the legislature is dominant and the president's role is almost purely ceremonial and apolitical, such as in Germany and India.

These states are parliamentary republics and operate similarly to constitutional monarchies with parliamentary systems where the power of the monarch is also greatly circumscribed. In parliamentary systems the head of government, most often titled prime minister, exercises the most real political power. Semi-presidential systems have a president as an active head of state, but also have a head of government with important powers.

The rules for appointing the president and the leader of the government, in some republics permit the appointment of a president and a prime minister who have opposing political convictions: in France, when the members of the ruling cabinet and the president come from opposing political factions, this situation is called cohabitation.

In some countries, like Switzerland and San Marino, the head of state is not a single person but a committee (council) of several persons holding that office. The Roman Republic had two consuls, appointed for a year.


In liberal democracies presidents are elected, either directly by the people or indirectly by a parliament or council. Typically in presidential and semi-presidential systems the president is directly elected by the people, or is indirectly elected as done in the United States. In that country the president is officially elected by an electoral college, chosen by the States, all of which do so by direct election of the electors. The indirect election of the president through the electoral college conforms to the concept of republic as one with a system of indirect election. In the opinion of some, direct election confers legitimacy upon the president and gives the office much of its political power.[41] However, this concept of legitimacy differs from that expressed in the United States Constitution which established the legitimacy of the United States president as resulting from the signing of the Constitution by 9 states.[42] The idea that direct election is required for legitimacy also contradicts the spirit of the Great Compromise, whose actual result was manifest in the clause[43] that provides voters in smaller states with slightly more representation in presidential selection than those in large states.

In states with a parliamentary system the president is usually elected by the parliament. This indirect elections subordinates the president to the parliament, and also gives the president limited legitimacy and turns most presidential powers into reserve powers that can only be exercised under rare circumstance. There are exceptions where elected presidents have only ceremonial powers, such as in the Republic of Ireland.


The distinction between a republic and a monarchy are not always clear. The constitutional monarchies of the former British Empire and Western Europe today have almost all real political power vested in the elected representatives, with the monarchs only holding theoretical and rarely used reserve powers. Real legitimacy for political decisions comes from the elected representatives and is derived from the will of the people. While hereditary monarchies remain in place, political power is derived from the people as in a republic. These states are thus sometimes referred to as crowned republics.[44]

Terms such as liberal republic are also used to describe all of the modern liberal democracies.[45]

There are also self proclaimed republics that act similarly to monarchies with absolute power vested in the leader and passed down from father to son. North Korea and Syria are two notable examples where a son has inherited political control. Neither of these states are officially monarchies. There is no constitutional requirement that power be passed down within one family, but it has occurred in practice.

There are also elective monarchy where ultimate power is vested in a monarch, but the monarch is chosen by some manner of election. A current example of such a state is Malaysia where the Yang di-Pertuan Agong is elected every five years by the Conference of Rulers composed of the nine hereditary rulers of the Malay states. While rare today, elective monarchs were common in the past. The Holy Roman Empire is an important example, where each new emperor was chosen by a group of electors. Islamic states also rarely employed primogeniture instead relying on various forms of election to chose a monarchs successor.

The Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth had an elective monarchy, with a wide suffrage of some 500,000 nobles. The system, known as the Golden Liberty, had developed as a method for powerful landowners to control the crown. The proponents of this system looked to classical examples, and the writings of the Italian Renaissance, and called their elective monarchy a rzeczpospolita, based on res publica.


Republics of the world as of 2006. red - full presidential system; green - executive presidency linked to a parliament; olive - semi-presidential system; orange - parliamentary republics; brown - republics whose constitutions grant only a single party the right to govern

In the early 21st century, most states that are not monarchies label themselves as republics either in their official names or their constitutions. There are a few exceptions: the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, Israel and the Russian Federation. Israel, Russia, and Libya would meet many definitions of the term republic, however.

Since the term republic is so vague by itself, many states felt it necessary to add additional qualifiers in order to clarify what kind of republics they claim to be. Here is a list of such qualifiers and variations on the term "republic":

  • Without other qualifier than the term Republic — for example France and Turkey.
  • Parliamentary republic — a republic, like India, Bangladesh, with an elected Head of state, but where the Head of state and Head of government are kept separate with the Head of government retaining most executive powers, or a Head of state akin to a Head of government, elected by a Parliament.
  • Federal republic, confederation or federation — a federal union of states or provinces with a republican form of government. Examples include Argentina, Austria, Brazil, Germany, India, Russia, the United States, and Switzerland.
  • Islamic Republic — Countries like Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran are republics governed in accordance with Islamic law. (Note: Turkey is a distinct exception and is not included in this list; while the population is predominantly Muslim, the state is a staunchly secular republic.)
  • Arab Republic — for example, Syria its name reflecting its theoretically pan-Arab Ba'athist government.
  • People's Republic, or Single-party state — Countries like China, Vietnam are meant to be governed for and by the people, but with indirect elections. The term People's Republic is used to differential themselves from the earlier republic of their countries before the people's revolution, like Republic of China and Republic of Korea.
  • Democratic Republic — Republics where the people elect their representatives and may engage in some forms of popular referenda. Examples include the United States of America.
  • Commonwealth (Rzeczpospolita) — Both words (English and Polish) are derived from the Latin word res publica (literally "common affairs"). Used for both the current Republic of Poland, and the old Nobility Commonwealth. Apart from the Polish term, some subnational entities with republican governments (e.g. Virginia and Puerto Rico), as well as some sovereign monarchies (e.g. Australia and The Bahamas), also style themselves "commonwealths."
  • Free state — Sometimes used as a label to indicate implementation of, or transition from a monarchical to, a republican form of government. Used for the Irish Free State (1922–1937) under an Irish Republican government, while still remaining associated with the British Empire.
  • Venezuela has been using, since the adoption of the 1999 constitution, the title of Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.
  • Other modifiers are rooted in tradition and history and usually have no real political meaning. San Marino, for instance, is the "Most Serene Republic" while Uruguay is "República Oriental", which implies it lies on the eastern bank of the Uruguay River.

Sub-national republics

In general being a republic also implies sovereignty as for the state to be ruled by the people it cannot be controlled by a foreign power. There are important exceptions to this, for example, Republics in the Soviet Union were member states which had to meet three criteria to be named republics:

  1. be on the periphery of the Soviet Union so as to be able to take advantage of their theoretical right to secede;
  2. be economically strong enough to be self-sufficient upon secession; and
  3. be named after at least one million people of the ethnic group which should make up the majority population of said republic.

Republics were originally created by Stalin[citation needed] and continue to be created even today in Russia. Russia itself is not a republic but a federation. It is sometimes argued that the former Soviet Union was also a supra-national republic, based on the claim that the member states were different nations.

States of the United States are required, like the federal government, to be republican in form, with final authority resting with the people. This was required because the states were intended to create and enforce most domestic laws, with the exception of areas delegated to the federal government and prohibited to the states. The founding fathers of the country intended most domestic laws to be handled by the states, although, over time, the federal government has gained more and more influence over domestic law. Requiring the states to be a republic in form was seen as protecting the citizens' rights and preventing a state from becoming a dictatorship or monarchy, and reflected unwillingness on the part of the original 13 states (all independent republics) to unite with other states that were not republics. Additionally, this requirement ensured that only other republics could join the union.

In the example of the United States, the original 13 British colonies became independent states after the American Revolution, each having a republican form of government. These independent states initially formed a loose confederation called the United States and then later formed the current United States by ratifying the current U.S. Constitution, creating a union of sovereign states with the union or federal government also being a republic. Any state joining the union later was also required to be a republic.

Other meanings

Political philosophy

The term republic originated from the writers of the Renaissance as a descriptive term for states that were not monarchies. These writers, such as Machiavelli, also wrote important prescriptive works describing how such governments should function. These ideas of how a government and society should be structured is the basis for an ideology known as classical republicanism or civic humanism. This ideology is based on the Roman Republic and the city states of Ancient Greece and focuses on ideals such as civic virtue, rule of law, and mixed government.[46]

This understanding of a republic as a distinct form of government from a liberal democracy is one of the main theses of the Cambridge School of historical analysis.[47] This grew out of the work of J.G.A. Pocock who in 1975 argued that a series of scholars had expressed a consistent set of republican ideals. These writers included Machiavelli, Milton, Montesquieu, and the founders of the United States of America.

Pocock argued that this was an ideology with a history and principles distinct from liberalism.[48] These ideas were embraced by a number of different writers Quentin Skinner, Philip Pettit[49] and Cass Sunstein. These subsequent writers have further explored the history of the idea, and also outlined how a modern republic should function.

United States

A distinct set of definitions for the word republic evolved in the United States. In common parlance a republic is a state that does not practice direct democracy but rather has a government indirectly controlled by the people. In the rest of the world this is known as representative democracy. This understanding of the term was originally developed by James Madison, and notably employed in Federalist Paper No. 10. This meaning was widely adopted early in the history of the United States, including in Noah Webster's dictionary of 1828. It was a novel meaning to the term, representative democracy was not an idea mentioned by Machiavelli and did not exist in the classical republics.[50]

The term republic does not appear in the Declaration of Independence, but does appear in Article IV of the Constitution which "guarantee[s] to every State in this Union a Republican form of Government." What exactly the writers of the constitution felt this should mean is uncertain. The Supreme Court, in Luther v. Borden (1849), declared that the definition of republic was a "political question" in which it would not intervene. In two later cases, it did establish a basic definition. In United States v. Cruikshank (1875), the court ruled that the "equal rights of citizens" were inherent to the idea of republic. The opinion of the court from In re Duncan[51] (1891) held that the "right of the people to choose their government" is also part of the definition. Due to the 1875 and 1891 court decisions establishing basic definition, in the first version (1892) of the Pledge of Allegiance, which included the word republic, and like Article IV which refers to a Republican form of government, the basic definition of republic is implied and continues to do so in all subsequent versions, including the present edition, by virtue of its consistent inclusion.

Beyond these basic definitions the word republic has a number of other connotations. W. Paul Adams observes that republic is most often used in the United States as a synonym for state or government, but with more positive connotations than either of those terms.[52] Republicanism is often referred to as the founding ideology of the United States. Traditionally scholars believed this American republicanism was a derivation of the liberal ideologies of John Locke and others developed in Europe.

The political philosophy of republicanism initiated by Machiavelli was thought to have had little impact on the founders of the United States. In the 1960s and 1970s a revisionist school lead by the likes of Bernard Bailyn began to argue that republicanism was just as or even more important than liberalism in the creation of the United States.[53] This issue is still much disputed and scholars like Kramnick completely reject this view.[54]

See also

Notes and references

  1. ^ Montesquieu, The Spirit of the Laws (1748), Bk. II, ch. 1.
  2. ^ "Republic". Encyclopedia Britannica. 
  3. ^ a b "republic", WordNet 3.0 (,, retrieved 20 March 2009 
  4. ^ a b "Republic". Merriam-Webster. Retrieved August 14, 2010. 
  5. ^ Hamilton, Alexander; Madison, James; Jay, John (1999). "Fed. 10". In Clinton Rossiter. The Federalist Papers. New York: Mentor Books. 
  6. ^ William R. Everdell. The End of Kings: A History of Republics and Republicans. University of Chicago Press, 2000. pg. 3
  7. ^ Montesquieu, Spirit of the Laws, Bk. II, ch. 2–3.
  8. ^ John W. Maynor. Republicanism in the modern world. Wiley-Blackwell, 2003.
  9. ^ Constitution of the United States.
  10. ^ a b c Pocock, J.G.A. The Machiavellian Moment: Florentine Political Thought and the Atlantic Republican Tradition (1975; new ed. 2003)
  11. ^ a b c Haakonssen, Knud. "Republicanism." A Companion to Contemporary Political Philosophy. Robert E. Goodin and Philip Pettit. eds. Cambridge: Blackwell, 1995.
  12. ^ William R. Everdell. The End of Kings: A History of Republics and Republicans. University of Chicago Press, 2000. pg. xxii - xxiii
  13. ^ Niccolò Machiavelli, 1532, The Prince, Chapter 1.
  14. ^ "Republicanism." Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Mon Jun 19, 2006
  15. ^ Rubinstein, Nicolai. "Machiavelli and Florentine Republican Experience." in Machiavelli and Republicanism Cambridge University Press, 1993.
  16. ^ a b c d e f "Republic" New Dictionary of the History of Ideas. Ed. Maryanne Cline Horowitz. Vol. 5. Detroit: Charles Scribner's Sons, 2005. pg. 2099
  17. ^ Lewis, Charlton T.; Charles Short (1879). "res, II.K". A Latin Dictionary. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Retrieved August 14, 2010. 
  18. ^ a b William R. Everdell. The End of Kings: A History of Republics and Republicans. University of Chicago Press, 2000.
  19. ^ Bloom, Allan. The Republic. Bsic Books, 1991. pg. 439-440
  20. ^ a b William R. Everdell. The End of Kings: A History of Republics and Republicans. University of Chicago Press, 2000. pg. xxiii
  21. ^ "Monarchy" New Dictionary of the History of Ideas. Ed. Maryanne Cline Horowitz. Vol. 5. Detroit: Charles Scribner's Sons, 2005.
  22. ^ Finer, Samuel. The History of Government from the Earliest Times. Oxford University Press, 1999. pg. 950.
  23. ^ Nippel, Wilfried. "Ancient and Modern Republicanism." The Invention of the Modern Republic ed. Biancamaria Fontana. Cambridge University Press, 1994 pg. 6
  24. ^ a b Paul A. Rahe, Republics, Ancient and Modern, three volumes, University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, 1994
  25. ^ Reno, Jeffrey. "republic." International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences pg. 184
  26. ^ Martin Bernal, Black Athena Writes Back (Durham: Duke University Press, 2001), 359.
  27. ^ Sharma, RS. Aspects of Political Ideas and Institutions in Ancient India. Motilal Banarsidass Publ., 1999 pg. xxix
  28. ^ Radhey Shyam Chaurasia History Of Ancient India Earliest Times To 1200 A.D. Atlantic Publishers & Distributors, 2002 pg. 296
  29. ^ Alterkar, AS. State and Government in Ancient India. Motilal Banarsidass Publ., 2002
  30. ^ a b Finer, Samuel. The History of Government from the Earliest Times. Oxford University Press, 1999. pg. 950-955.
  31. ^ William R. Everdell. The End of Kings: A History of Republics and Republicans. University of Chicago Press, 2000
  32. ^ Finer, Samuel. The History of Government from the Earliest Times. Oxford University Press, 1999. pg. 955-956.
  33. ^ Finer, Samuel. The History of Government from the Earliest Times. Oxford University Press, 1999. pg. 1020.
  34. ^ "Republicanism." Encyclopedia of the Enlightenment pg. 435
  35. ^ "Introduction." Republicanism: a Shared European Heritage. By Martin van Gelderen and Quentin Skinner. Cambridge University Press, 2002 pg. 1
  36. ^ "Republicanism." Encyclopedia of the Enlightenment pg. 431
  37. ^ "Latin American Republicanism" New Dictionary of the History of Ideas. Ed. Maryanne Cline Horowitz. Vol. 5. Detroit: Charles Scribner's Sons, 2005.
  38. ^ Anderson, Lisa. "Absolutism and the Resilience of Monarchy in the Middle East." Political Science Quarterly, Vol. 106, No. 1 (Spring, 1991), pp. 1–15
  39. ^ Bernard Lewis. "The Concept of an Islamic Republic" Die Welt des Islams, New Series, Vol. 4, Issue 1 (1955), pp. 1–9
  40. ^ OED, s. v.
  41. ^ "Presidential Systems" Governments of the World: A Global Guide to Citizens' Rights and Responsibilities. Ed. C. Neal Tate. Vol. 4. Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA, 2006. p7-11.
  42. ^ Article VII, Constitution of the United States
  43. ^ Article II, Para 2, Constitution of the United States
  44. ^ The novelist and essayist H.G.Wells regularly used the term crowned republic to describe the United Kingdom, for instance in his work A Short History of the World. Alfred, Lord Tennyson in his poem Idylls of the King.
  45. ^ Dunn, John. "The Identity of the Bourgeois Liberal Republic." The Invention of the Modern Republic. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994.
  46. ^ "Republicanism" Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Jun 19, 2006
  47. ^ McCormick, John P. "Machiavelli against Republicanism: On the Cambridge School's 'Guicciardinian Moments'" Political Theory, Vol. 31, No. 5 (Oct., 2003), pp. 615–643
  48. ^ Pocock, J.G.A The Machiavellian Moment: Florentine Political Thought and the Atlantic Republican Tradition Princeton: 1975;2003
  49. ^ Philip Pettit, Republicanism: A Theory of Freedom and Government, NY: Oxford U.P., 1997, ISBN 0-19-829083-7; Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1997.
  50. ^ William R. Everdell. The End of Kings: A History of Republics and Republicans. University of Chicago Press, 2000. pg. 6
  51. ^ 139 U.S. 449, (1891)
  52. ^ W. Paul Adams "Republicanism in Political Rhetoric Before 1776." Political Science Quarterly, Vol. 85, No. 3 (Sep., 1970), pp. 397–421
  53. ^ Bailyn, Bernard. The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution. Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1967.
  54. ^ Kramnick, Isaac. Republicanism and Bourgeois Radicalism: Political Ideology in Late Eighteenth-Century England and America. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1990.

Further reading

  • Martin van Gelderen & Quentin Skinner, eds., Republicanism: A Shared European Heritage, v1, Republicanism and Constitutionalism in Early Modern Europe, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press., 2002
  • Martin van Gelderen & Quentin Skinner, eds., Republicanism: A Shared European Heritage, v2, The Values of Republicanism in Early Modern Europe, Cambridge: Cambridge U.P., 2002
  • Frédéric Monera, L'idée de République et la jurisprudence du Conseil constitutionnel — Paris: L.G.D.J., 2004,
  • James Hankins, "Exclusivist Republicanism and the Non-Monarchical Republic," Political Theory 38.4 (August 2010), 452-482.krc:Республика


Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary



Wikipedia has an article on:


  •  Audio (US)help, file
  • Hyphenation: re‧pub‧lic


From Latin rēs publica ("republic"), from rēs ("thing") + publica, the feminine of publicus ("public"). Literally meaning "the public thing".


Wikipedia has an article on:
republic (plural republics)
  1. A state where sovereignty rests with the people or their representatives, rather than with a monarch or emperor; a country with no monarchy.^ This leaves no room for accountability that puts the development of the country (if any) in a pendulum state.
    • Dictatorship is the best path to development 1 February 2010 7:40 UTC [Source type: Original source]

    ^ "Vidal says that he hates labels and has said he believes in homosexual acts rather than homosexual people."
    • Gore Vidal: ‘We’ll Have a Dictatorship Soon in the US’ | 1 February 2010 7:40 UTC [Source type: General]

    ^ This ownership allows – probably no more than a few hundred financial capitalists – to create money, of any country, out of the thinest of airs, control all credit, and to then enforce into indebtedness all nations and peoples of the world.

    The U.S.A. is a republic; Great Britain is technically a monarchy.
  2. One of the subdivisions constituting Russia. See oblast.
    The Republic of Udmurtia is west of the Permian Oblast.


The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables, removing any numbers. Numbers do not necessarily match those in definitions. See instructions at Help:How to check translations.

Simple English

A republic is a type of government that has no king, queen, or other monarch and where the people are sovereign. This means that people can choose leaders to represent them and make the laws. The word republic comes from the Latin language words res publica, which means "public thing".

Countries with a king or other monarch and free elections are called Constitutional Monarchies. What makes a republic different is that the people do not need the permission of a king or other higher power to choose leaders and the type of government they want. Laws are made and enforced in the name of the people.

The Head of State in a republic is generally a person who has been chosen by the citizens, either by direct election or by a group of elected representatives to act as the top representative of the people. In most republics, the Head of State is called the president. In some countries, the president is elected and has a lot of political power. In others, the president does not hold a lot of direct power, but is important in the legal system for other reasons.


Licchavi in India was the first republic in the 6th and 5th century BCE. The other earliest republics were Greek settlements in the Mediterranean sea. The biggest difference from other city-states that were around then was that people could choose their leaders by voting for them. The votes were then counted, and the person with the most votes won.krc:Республикаrue:Републіка

Citable sentences

Up to date as of December 17, 2010

Here are sentences from other pages on Republic, which are similar to those in the above article.

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