Archontology is the study of historical offices and important positions in state
State (polity)
A state is an organized political community, living under a government. States may be sovereign and may enjoy a monopoly on the legal initiation of force and are not dependent on, or subject to any other power or state. Many states are federated states which participate in a federal union...

, international
----International mostly means something that involves more than one country. The term international as a word means involvement of, interaction between or encompassing more than one nation, or generally beyond national boundaries...

, political
Politics is a process by which groups of people make collective decisions. The term is generally applied to the art or science of running governmental or state affairs, including behavior within civil governments, but also applies to institutions, fields, and special interest groups such as the...

, religious
Religion is a collection of cultural systems, belief systems, and worldviews that establishes symbols that relate humanity to spirituality and, sometimes, to moral values. Many religions have narratives, symbols, traditions and sacred histories that are intended to give meaning to life or to...

 and other organizations and societies. It includes chronology
Chronology is the science of arranging events in their order of occurrence in time, such as the use of a timeline or sequence of events. It is also "the determination of the actual temporal sequence of past events".Chronology is part of periodization...

, succession
Order of succession
An order of succession is a formula or algorithm that determines who inherits an office upon the death, resignation, or removal of its current occupant.-Monarchies and nobility:...

 of office holders, their biographies
A biography is a detailed description or account of someone's life. More than a list of basic facts , biography also portrays the subject's experience of those events...

 and related records.


Political science
Political science
Political Science is a social science discipline concerned with the study of the state, government and politics. Aristotle defined it as the study of the state. It deals extensively with the theory and practice of politics, and the analysis of political systems and political behavior...

 and history
History is the discovery, collection, organization, and presentation of information about past events. History can also mean the period of time after writing was invented. Scholars who write about history are called historians...

 would be void and misunderstood without naming its chief actors
Actor (policy debate)
In policy debate, an actor is an entity that enacts a certain policy action. If a plan were to have the U.S. send humanitarian aid to Sudan, then the actor would be the United States federal government....

. In many cases, these actors were those who either sat on the throne
A throne is the official chair or seat upon which a monarch is seated on state or ceremonial occasions. "Throne" in an abstract sense can also refer to the monarchy or the Crown itself, an instance of metonymy, and is also used in many expressions such as "the power behind the...

 or enjoyed popular support at election
An election is a formal decision-making process by which a population chooses an individual to hold public office. Elections have been the usual mechanism by which modern representative democracy operates since the 17th century. Elections may fill offices in the legislature, sometimes in the...

 or violently seized the power when circumstances permitted. There have always been those who held important state, public and party
Political party
A political party is a political organization that typically seeks to influence government policy, usually by nominating their own candidates and trying to seat them in political office. Parties participate in electoral campaigns, educational outreach or protest actions...

 offices, those who wielded absolute power
An autocracy is a form of government in which one person is the supreme power within the state. It is derived from the Greek : and , and may be translated as "one who rules by himself". It is distinct from oligarchy and democracy...

, those who were limited in their actions by law
Law is a system of rules and guidelines which are enforced through social institutions to govern behavior, wherever possible. It shapes politics, economics and society in numerous ways and serves as a social mediator of relations between people. Contract law regulates everything from buying a bus...

 or tradition
A tradition is a ritual, belief or object passed down within a society, still maintained in the present, with origins in the past. Common examples include holidays or impractical but socially meaningful clothes , but the idea has also been applied to social norms such as greetings...

. This category colloquially known as "rulers" has been an object of studies in scientific chronology
Chronology is the science of arranging events in their order of occurrence in time, such as the use of a timeline or sequence of events. It is also "the determination of the actual temporal sequence of past events".Chronology is part of periodization...

 for long ages. An interest in studying the rulers emerged long before it became a part of history and chronology as academic disciplines. This distinctive interest in studying the chronologies of heads of states, governments, ministries and other offices may be rigorously defined as institutional chronology or even as archontology (from Greek, αρχων (archon
Archon is a Greek word that means "ruler" or "lord", frequently used as the title of a specific public office. It is the masculine present participle of the verb stem ἀρχ-, meaning "to rule", derived from the same root as monarch, hierarchy, and anarchy.- Ancient Greece :In ancient Greece the...

), meaning ruler; used specifically for supreme magistrates, as in Athens
Athens , is the capital and largest city of Greece. Athens dominates the Attica region and is one of the world's oldest cities, as its recorded history spans around 3,400 years. Classical Athens was a powerful city-state...

, or even kings, as in the Cimmerian Bosporus).

Development of archontology

Institutional chronology as integral part of general chronology dates back to the times of first civilizations. One of the earliest efforts of ancient historians was aimed at compiling the chronology of contemporary rulers and their predecessors. The kinglists, found in most centers of the ancient civilizations (for an example, see the Sumerian kinglist), formed a basis for building more detailed historical accounts and served as a skeleton for further historical studies. It is difficult to imagine what history of Ancient Egypt
Ancient Egypt
Ancient Egypt was an ancient civilization of Northeastern Africa, concentrated along the lower reaches of the Nile River in what is now the modern country of Egypt. Egyptian civilization coalesced around 3150 BC with the political unification of Upper and Lower Egypt under the first pharaoh...

 we would have, if modern historian
A historian is a person who studies and writes about the past and is regarded as an authority on it. Historians are concerned with the continuous, methodical narrative and research of past events as relating to the human race; as well as the study of all history in time. If the individual is...

s could not base their research on the tables of rulers by Manetho
Manetho was an Egyptian historian and priest from Sebennytos who lived during the Ptolemaic era, approximately during the 3rd century BC. Manetho wrote the Aegyptiaca...

 and the Abydos
Abydos, Egypt
Abydos is one of the most ancient cities of Upper Egypt, and also of the eight Upper Nome, of which it was the capital city. It is located about 11 kilometres west of the Nile at latitude 26° 10' N, near the modern Egyptian towns of el-'Araba el Madfuna and al-Balyana...

 inscriptions. The history of Rome
Rome is the capital of Italy and the country's largest and most populated city and comune, with over 2.7 million residents in . The city is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, on the Tiber River within the Lazio region of Italy.Rome's history spans two and a half...

 would be difficult to reconstruct if we did not have the availability of consular lists. The tradition of keeping records of rulers survived through the ages and became a part of modern history and chronology, but in fact it appears as a distinctive field of study and independent discipline closely related to political science
Political science
Political Science is a social science discipline concerned with the study of the state, government and politics. Aristotle defined it as the study of the state. It deals extensively with the theory and practice of politics, and the analysis of political systems and political behavior...

 and legal studies.

Historians and chronographers built the lists of kings
A monarch is the person who heads a monarchy. This is a form of government in which a state or polity is ruled or controlled by an individual who typically inherits the throne by birth and occasionally rules for life or until abdication...

, queen
Queen regnant
A queen regnant is a female monarch who reigns in her own right, in contrast to a queen consort, who is the wife of a reigning king. An empress regnant is a female monarch who reigns in her own right over an empire....

s, president
A president is a leader of an organization, company, trade union, university, or country.Etymologically, a president is one who presides, who sits in leadership...

s and other powerful leaders. Royal genealogies
Genealogy is the study of families and the tracing of their lineages and history. Genealogists use oral traditions, historical records, genetic analysis, and other records to obtain information about a family and to demonstrate kinship and pedigrees of its members...

 including information on reign
A reign is the term used to describe the period of a person's or dynasty's occupation of the office of monarch of a nation or of a people . In most hereditary monarchies and some elective monarchies A reign is the term used to describe the period of a person's or dynasty's occupation of the office...

s and pedigree became the first analytical works in institutional chronology. A 17th century work of R. P. Anselme, Histoire de la maison royale de France et des grands officiers de la Couronne is an example of early studies focused on the heads of state and the holders of highest state offices.

The 19th and 20th centuries witnessed the appearance of general works attempting to compile the lists of rulers sorted out by nations and time. The most massive example of such study is the work of Peter Truhart, Regenten der Welt/Regents of Nations a universal reference book for heads of states and governments of all nations of all times. It was published twice, in 1985 and in 2001, but is still riddled with errors resulting from the attempt by its author to include as much information as available regardless of its validity from the viewpoint of chronology. Works focused on a narrow scope of research enjoyed a far better success. The Handbook of British Chronology, a work continuously improved by its editors, serves as an excellent example of the combining of theoretical, historical and chronological methods.

A large number of studies closely related to the institutional chronology is represented by thematic works on rulers of different nations. These works may include documented information, but often deviate from the main course of archontology. Apparently in attempt to extend the limits of a target group, their authors often focus on curious but less important facts.

Contemporary archontology and genealogy receive the support of many enthusiasts interested in collecting the information related to the history of offices. Modern technical improvements should increase the sophistication of chronological analysis and turn institutional chronology into a more refined discipline. These fields not only offer opportunities for amateurs, but currently depend on their input, both as to facts and as to analysis and organization. However, the quality of studies has not yet dramatically improved. The process of collecting attracts many of those whose primary objectives were far from profound analysis and extensive study. The majority of the studies currently being published leans towards an easier approach.

Approaches to archontology

Further development of archontology as academic discipline requires new approaches. More attention to the facts determining the dates of reigns and offices. What should be accepted as a sound reason for dating the beginning of a reign: the death of a predecessor, the proclamation
A proclamation is an official declaration.-England and Wales:In English law, a proclamation is a formal announcement , made under the great seal, of some matter which the King in Council or Queen in Council desires to make known to his or her subjects: e.g., the declaration of war, or state of...

 by parliament, coronation
A coronation is a ceremony marking the formal investiture of a monarch and/or their consort with regal power, usually involving the placement of a crown upon their head and the presentation of other items of regalia...

? What does officially determine the premature end of an office holder's tenure: the date of his/her resignation
A resignation is the formal act of giving up or quitting one's office or position. It can also refer to the act of admitting defeat in a game like chess, indicated by the resigning player declaring "I resign", turning his king on its side, extending his hand, or stopping the chess clock...

, the date when the resignation was accepted by national legislature
A legislature is a kind of deliberative assembly with the power to pass, amend, and repeal laws. The law created by a legislature is called legislation or statutory law. In addition to enacting laws, legislatures usually have exclusive authority to raise or lower taxes and adopt the budget and...

, the installation of a successor? Such questions are often neglected or noted only occasionally. Therefore, the study of political developments and national legal systems should be recognized as essential tool in determination of dates. Personal identification of "rulers" should be used by adding biographical details including full names, titles, precise dates and geographic locations of births and deaths.

Numerous studies contradict each other concerning even the most obvious dates. The reasons for such contradictions apparently lay in the fact that different authors were chiefly concerned with building consistent chronologies, which recorded each possible name and date, but failed to provide reasonable explanations for picking the dates and sometimes even for historical characters included in such records. In most of these works one can hardly find references to the primary sources including archival documents. A lack of details and proper explanations diminishes the quality of reference works on institutional chronology.

The availability of quality studies in this field varies from country to country. It is very simple to learn the dates and mechanisms of changing presidents in the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 from 1789, but not every book may answer the question what preceded the inauguration
An inauguration is a formal ceremony to mark the beginning of a leader's term of office. An example is the ceremony in which the President of the United States officially takes the oath of office....

 of George Washington
George Washington
George Washington was the dominant military and political leader of the new United States of America from 1775 to 1799. He led the American victory over Great Britain in the American Revolutionary War as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army from 1775 to 1783, and presided over the writing of...

 and what role the presidents of the Continental Congress
Continental Congress
The Continental Congress was a convention of delegates called together from the Thirteen Colonies that became the governing body of the United States during the American Revolution....

 played in 1774 - 1788. The history of Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

 is covered in thousands of studies, but we still cannot name a book providing documented dates for its heads of government in the 20th century as a constituent republic of the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

. A number of gaps remain for historians to fill. This enterprise would not involve only the study of printed primary sources, but also a lot of work in the archives.

Archontology is not aimed at a simple collecting of dates and names, but combining them into detailed chronologies, where the changes of office holders are reasonably explained from the viewpoints of history, political science and law. This approach significantly boosts the value of the collected material and should help fill in the gaps existing in chronologies of national leaders. There is no carefully elaborated and universally accepted system for selecting and verifying chronological facts, but such a system would be extremely helpful to determine the criteria of selection for dates and names.

The lack of authoritative information results from many factors. It might seem to be easy, but verification of dates and creation of consecutive chronologies appears to be a challenging task. Lists of rulers used as appendices to academic works are usually over-simplified and poorly verified. This may be the case because the verification requires consulting a great number of official periodicals and collections of legal statutes published in various countries. The tiny facts related to the changes in government are hidden deeply in the minutes of national parliaments and executive bodies.

An illustrative example of discovering new names for institutional chronology is the story of Wilhelm Pfannkuch, who was practically excluded from the list of rulers of Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

 until the facts were found restoring his place in historical chronology. While Eduard David
Eduard David
Eduard Heinrich Rudolph David was a German politician. During the Weimar Republic he was the Minister of the Interior from 21 June 1919 to 3 October 1919....

, the first president of the Nationalversammlung (7 Feb 1919 - 13 Feb 1919), was always considered as temporary head of state of Germany from 7 Feb 1919 to 11 Feb 1919, the name of Pfannkuch was omitted. The minutes of the Nationalversammlung for 6 Feb 1919 reveal that Pfannkuch indeed chaired the Nationalversammlung on 6 Feb 1919 and partly on 7 Feb 1919 as Alterspräsident (president by age). Thus in his capacity as head of the national constituent assembly he briefly exercised the functions of head of state
Head of State
A head of state is the individual that serves as the chief public representative of a monarchy, republic, federation, commonwealth or other kind of state. His or her role generally includes legitimizing the state and exercising the political powers, functions, and duties granted to the head of...


The study of national leadership chronologies may be enriched by attaching theoretical analysis of patterns found in political developments of different countries. Provisional governments, temporary substitutions of office holders, term definitions, authentic position titles, regencies
A regent, from the Latin regens "one who reigns", is a person selected to act as head of state because the ruler is a minor, not present, or debilitated. Currently there are only two ruling Regencies in the world, sovereign Liechtenstein and the Malaysian constitutive state of Terengganu...

 – these topics form only a part of theoretical issues.

The works not focused on the institutional chronology tend to use colloquial terms and definitions, which partially distort the historical retrospective. Currently, most works on chronology of rulers and high state officials require extensive improvement as they appear as skeletons of names and dates, to which no flesh of facts is attached. A reader may find himself confused with thousands of unexplained dates and names, while different works continue to contradict each other, adding to the reader's confusion. The nations whose histories feature a rich variety of constitutional and unconstitutional changes of rulers are presented in the reference books in an impoverished form, due the fact that their institutional histories are not properly studied. It would not be a surprise to fail in finding the complete membership of a Nicaragua
Nicaragua is the largest country in the Central American American isthmus, bordered by Honduras to the north and Costa Rica to the south. The country is situated between 11 and 14 degrees north of the Equator in the Northern Hemisphere, which places it entirely within the tropics. The Pacific Ocean...

n governing junta
Military dictatorship
A military dictatorship is a form of government where in the political power resides with the military. It is similar but not identical to a stratocracy, a state ruled directly by the military....

 in the mid-19th century, but we still lack definite works on many Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

an governments. A great number of stand-ins and short-lived political bodies await inclusion in the works on institutional chronology. All these omissions might be done away with only if we applied a more thorough approach to these studies.

Theoretical principles of institutional chronology are still far from being clearly formulated. A researcher puzzled with two or more conflicting dates needs a definite guidance on what event makes the date valid from the viewpoint of institutional chronology or needs an alternative date backed by facts. A simple question as to when an office holder legally took possession of his or her office may raise a number of tough questions. A very interesting instance of this issue is the case of the Executive Directory of the French Republic
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

 in 1795 - 1799. Various works on the history of the Executive Directory give rather contradicting answers to a question as to when a directory’s member formally took his office. A detailed study showed that at least three different approaches might be applied to the precise determination of their terms of office. Out of 13 directors, the initial four members officially entered into exercising their duties upon constituting the Directory as an executive body, seven – upon their election, and two – on the dates fixed in a special law. Despite the fact that numerous works on the history of France in the 18th century have been published and continue being published, these difficulties remain largely unknown. As a result, one finds conflicting and confusing appearances of the respective dates in reference works.

A significant portion of sources for studying the institutional chronology consists of the archives of actual legislation. The collections of documents issued for the purpose of governing by the heads of states and governments, ministers, military leaders and others contain valuable information for studying authentic definitions used by the office holders, their self-styles and official parlance in general. Slightest changes in styles, frequently ignored in the works on general history, might be restored only by careful examination of heritage accumulated by the national governments. For instance, it is known that the colloquial use of the term tsar for the All-Russian Emperor in 1721–1917 is strictly incorrect, because in this period the term tsar
Tsar is a title used to designate certain European Slavic monarchs or supreme rulers. As a system of government in the Tsardom of Russia and Russian Empire, it is known as Tsarist autocracy, or Tsarism...

 was used in the sense of monarch only for subsidiary (and partially imaginary) polities (with the exception of Poland
Poland , officially the Republic of Poland , is a country in Central Europe bordered by Germany to the west; the Czech Republic and Slovakia to the south; Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania to the east; and the Baltic Sea and Kaliningrad Oblast, a Russian exclave, to the north...

, at least from 1815 to 1830). The lack of proper definition for a ruler's style results in a distorted view of political development. The answers are often to be found exclusively in the study of legal documents.

Disciplinary aims and objectives

Besides purely academic interest, institutional chronology has a true practical meaning. It is used in many disciplines and can be utilized for different purposes. Definite and proven information on the terms of offices may be successfully used for dating the documents. The advantages of proven chronologies of office holders appear when reasonable defined terms of offices narrow the area of research. The right of signature pertinent to office holders and the dates of holding the office help determine the dates of issuing a document if such date was not found in original copy. The principle of using the rulers' names for year counting is known for many nations including ancient Rome
Ancient Rome
Ancient Rome was a thriving civilization that grew on the Italian Peninsula as early as the 8th century BC. Located along the Mediterranean Sea and centered on the city of Rome, it expanded to one of the largest empires in the ancient world....

 and Greece
Greece , officially the Hellenic Republic , and historically Hellas or the Republic of Greece in English, is a country in southeastern Europe....

, imperial China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

 and Japan
Japan is an island nation in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies to the east of the Sea of Japan, China, North Korea, South Korea and Russia, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Taiwan in the south...

. The regnal years have an essential role for chronology of England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

 and other European countries. Thus, only a neatly composed chronology of rulers may serve as a good basis for researchers.

The ultimate goals of institutional chronology cannot be achieved only by removing discrepancies and filling the gaps in the lists of rulers. As a matter of fact, these gaps cannot be reconciled unless some universal definitions and terms are accepted by researchers. The criteria for selection of persons to be included in archontological studies, the criteria for selection and verification of terms and dates, the ways of identification of rulers and office holders are still to be defined. Current approaches should go through reconsideration for further improvement and sophistication.

To become an independent academic discipline, archontology should focus on elaborating new standards and terminology for classification of rulers and officials. The existing chronologies, based on well established facts, may serve as a basis for archontological studies, but it should be extended, restructured and supplemented with theoretical information including historical, political and juridical aspects for changes in the forms of government and governmental succession. It is not necessarily that the studies should focus on the succession of office holders. The research on authentic titles, mechanisms for succession, classification of legal information, inauguration ceremonies and others may form an organic part of archontology.

While a universal improvement of records for all nations and ages could hardly be expected in the nearest future, the study of institutional chronologies for particular countries and supranational unions should be encouraged through sophistication of methods and approaches. The appearance of enriched, verified and documented chronologies recorded with the appropriate technical terminology
Technical terminology
Technical terminology is the specialized vocabulary of any field, not just technical fields. The same is true of the synonyms technical terms, terms of art, shop talk and words of art, which do not necessarily refer to technology or art...

would signify a real improvement in the development of this field of study and would help the general regeneration of archontology.

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