Presidents & Heads of StatesFirst LadiesVice PresidentsPrime MinistersKingsQueensEmperors & EmpressesSultansPharaohsDictatorsGovernorsSenatorsOther Politicians
John F. Kennedy, 35th president of the United States (1961–63), who faced a number of foreign crises, especially in Cuba and Berlin, but managed to secure such achievements as the Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty and the Alliance for Progress. He was assassinated while riding in a motorcade in Dallas. The...

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Charles de Gaulle, French soldier, writer, statesman, and architect of France’s Fifth Republic. De Gaulle was the second son of a Roman Catholic, patriotic, and nationalist upper-middle-class family. The family had produced historians and writers, and his father taught philosophy and literature;...
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Benito Mussolini, Italian prime minister (1922–43) and the first of 20th-century Europe’s fascist dictators. Mussolini was the first child of the local blacksmith. In later years he expressed pride in his humble origins and often spoke of himself as a “man of the people.” The Mussolini family was,...
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Peter I, tsar of Russia who reigned jointly with his half-brother Ivan V (1682–96) and alone thereafter (1696–1725) and who in 1721 was proclaimed emperor (imperator). He was one of his country’s greatest statesmen, organizers, and reformers. Peter was the son of Tsar Alexis by his second wife,...
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George W. Bush, 43rd president of the United States (2001–09), who led his country’s response to the September 11 terrorist attacks in 2001 and initiated the Iraq War in 2003. Narrowly winning the electoral college vote in 2000 over Vice Pres. Al Gore in one of the closest and most-controversial...
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Philip II, 18th king of Macedonia (359–336 bce), who restored internal peace to his country and by 339 had gained domination over all of Greece by military and diplomatic means, thus laying the foundations for its expansion under his son Alexander III the Great. Philip was a son of Amyntas III. In...
Winston Churchill, British statesman, orator, and author who as prime minister (1940–45, 1951–55) rallied the British people during World War II and led his country from the brink of defeat to victory. After a sensational rise to prominence in national politics before World War I, Churchill...
Frederick II, king of Prussia (1740–86), a brilliant military campaigner who, in a series of diplomatic stratagems and wars against Austria and other powers, greatly enlarged Prussia’s territories and made Prussia the foremost military power in Europe. An enlightened absolute monarch, he favoured...
Franklin D. Roosevelt, 32nd president of the United States (1933–45). The only president elected to the office four times, Roosevelt led the United States through two of the greatest crises of the 20th century: the Great Depression and World War II. In so doing, he greatly expanded the powers of...
Kemal Atatürk, (Turkish: “Kemal, Father of Turks”) soldier, statesman, and reformer who was the founder and first president (1923–38) of the Republic of Turkey. He modernized the country’s legal and educational systems and encouraged the adoption of a European way of life, with Turkish written in...
government, the political system by which a country or community is administered and regulated. Most of the key words commonly used to describe governments—words such as monarchy, oligarchy, and democracy—are of Greek or Roman origin. They have been current for more than 2,000 years and have not...
Nikita Khrushchev, first secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (1953–64) and premier of the Soviet Union (1958–64) whose policy of de-Stalinization had widespread repercussions throughout the communist world. In foreign affairs he pursued a policy of “peaceful coexistence” with the...
Genghis Khan, Mongolian warrior-ruler, one of the most famous conquerors of history, who consolidated tribes into a unified Mongolia and then extended his empire across Asia to the Adriatic Sea. Genghis Khan was a warrior and ruler of genius who, starting from obscure and insignificant beginnings,...
Alexander Hamilton, New York delegate to the Constitutional Convention (1787), major author of the Federalist papers, and first secretary of the treasury of the United States (1789–95), who was the foremost champion of a strong central government for the new United States. He was killed in a duel...
Adolf Hitler, leader of the Nazi Party (from 1920/21) and chancellor (Kanzler) and Führer of Germany (1933–45). He was chancellor from January 30, 1933, and, after President Paul von Hindenburg’s death, assumed the twin titles of Führer and chancellor (August 2, 1934). Hitler’s father, Alois (born...
Augustus, first Roman emperor, following the republic, which had been finally destroyed by the dictatorship of Julius Caesar, his great-uncle and adoptive father. His autocratic regime is known as the principate because he was the princeps, the first citizen, at the head of that array of outwardly...
John Quincy Adams, sixth president of the United States (1825–29) and eldest son of President John Adams. In his prepresidential years he was one of America’s greatest diplomats (formulating, among other things, what came to be called the Monroe Doctrine), and in his postpresidential years (as a...
Richard Nixon, 37th president of the United States (1969–74), who, faced with almost certain impeachment for his role in the Watergate scandal, became the first American president to resign from office. He was also vice president (1953–61) under Pres. Dwight D. Eisenhower. Richard Nixon was the...
Otto von Bismarck, prime minister of Prussia (1862–73, 1873–90) and founder and first chancellor (1871–90) of the German Empire. Once the empire was established, he actively and skillfully pursued pacific policies in foreign affairs, succeeding in preserving the peace in Europe for about two...
Lyndon B. Johnson, 36th president of the United States (1963–69). A moderate Democrat and vigorous leader in the United States Senate, Johnson was elected vice president in 1960 and acceded to the presidency in 1963 upon the assassination of Pres. John F. Kennedy. During his administration he...
Elizabeth I, queen of England (1558–1603) during a period, often called the Elizabethan Age, when England asserted itself vigorously as a major European power in politics, commerce, and the arts. Although her small kingdom was threatened by grave internal divisions, Elizabeth’s blend of shrewdness,...
Alexander the Great, king of Macedonia (336–323 bce), who overthrew the Persian empire, carried Macedonian arms to India, and laid the foundations for the Hellenistic world of territorial kingdoms. Already in his lifetime the subject of fabulous stories, he later became the hero of a full-scale...
presidency of the United States of America, chief executive office of the United States. In contrast to many countries with parliamentary forms of government, where the office of president, or head of state, is mainly ceremonial, in the United States the president is vested with great authority and...
David Cameron, British Conservative Party leader who served as prime minister of the United Kingdom (2010–16). Cameron, a descendant of King William IV, was born into a family with both wealth and an aristocratic pedigree. He attended Eton College and Brasenose College, Oxford, from which he...
Ronald Reagan, 40th president of the United States (1981–89), noted for his conservative Republicanism, his fervent anticommunism, and his appealing personal style, characterized by a jaunty affability and folksy charm. The only movie actor ever to become president, he had a remarkable skill as an...
Woodrow Wilson, 28th president of the United States (1913–21), an American scholar and statesman best remembered for his legislative accomplishments and his high-minded idealism. Wilson led his country into World War I and became the creator and leading advocate of the League of Nations, for which...
Vladimir Putin, Russian intelligence officer and politician who served as president (1999–2008, 2012– ) of Russia and also was the country’s prime minister (1999, 2008–12). Putin studied law at Leningrad State University, where his tutor was Anatoly Sobchak, later one of the leading reform...
Mao Zedong, principal Chinese Marxist theorist, soldier, and statesman who led his country’s communist revolution. Mao was the leader of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) from 1935 until his death, and he was chairman (chief of state) of the People’s Republic of China from 1949 to 1959 and chairman...
Napoleon I, French general, first consul (1799–1804), and emperor of the French (1804–1814/15), one of the most celebrated personages in the history of the West. He revolutionized military organization and training; sponsored the Napoleonic Code, the prototype of later civil-law codes; reorganized...
first lady, wife of the president of the United States. Although the first lady’s role has never been codified or officially defined, she figures prominently in the political and social life of the nation. Representative of her husband on official and ceremonial occasions both at home and abroad,...
Charlemagne, king of the Franks (768–814), king of the Lombards (774–814), and first emperor (800–814) of the Romans and of what was later called the Holy Roman Empire. Around the time of the birth of Charlemagne—conventionally held to be 742 but likely to be 747 or 748—his father, Pippin III (the...
India, country that occupies the greater part of South Asia. Its capital is New Delhi, built in the 20th century just south of the historic hub of Old Delhi to serve as India’s administrative centre. Its government is a constitutional republic that represents a highly diverse population consisting...
Gustavus Adolphus, king of Sweden (1611–32) who laid the foundations of the modern Swedish state and made it a major European power. Gustavus was the eldest son of Charles IX and his second wife, Christina of Holstein. He was still some weeks short of his 17th birthday when he succeeded his father...
Jawaharlal Nehru, first prime minister of independent India (1947–64), who established parliamentary government and became noted for his neutralist (nonaligned) policies in foreign affairs. He was also one of the principal leaders of India’s independence movement in the 1930s and ’40s. Nehru was...
Vladimir Lenin, founder of the Russian Communist Party (Bolsheviks), inspirer and leader of the Bolshevik Revolution (1917), and the architect, builder, and first head (1917–24) of the Soviet state. He was the founder of the organization known as Comintern (Communist International) and the...
Dwight D. Eisenhower, 34th president of the United States (1953–61), who had been supreme commander of the Allied forces in western Europe during World War II. Eisenhower was the third of seven sons of David Jacob and Ida Elizabeth (Stover) Eisenhower. In the spring of 1891 the Eisenhowers left...
President, in government, the officer in whom the chief executive power of a nation is vested. The president of a republic is the head of state, but the actual power of the president varies from country to country; in the United States, Africa, and Latin America the presidential office is charged with great powers and responsibilities, but the office is relatively weak and largely ceremonial in Europe and in many countries where the prime minister, or premier, functions as the chief executive officer.
“First lady” is the title for the wife of the president of the United States. Although the first lady’s role has never been codified or officially defined, she figures prominently in the political and social life of the nation. Some first ladies have used their influence to affect legislation on important matters such as temperance reform, housing improvement, and women’s rights. Since 1789, especially, the role of first lady has changed considerably. Although still dependent on individual personalities, it has come to include involvement in political campaigns, management of the White House, championship of social causes, and representation of the president at official and ceremonial occasions.
Prime minister, also called premier, the head of government in a country with a parliamentary or semipresidential political system. In such systems, the prime minister—literally the “first,” or most important, minister—must be able to command a continuous majority in the legislature (usually the lower house in a bicameral system) to remain in office.
A king is a supreme ruler, sovereign over a nation or a territory, of higher rank than any other secular ruler except an emperor, to whom a king may be subject.
"Emperor" is a title designating the sovereigns of the ancient Roman Empire and, by derivation, various later European rulers; it is also applied loosely to certain non-European monarchs.
The term "sultan" was originally used to denote moral or spiritual authority, but it later came to denote political or governmental power and from the 11th century was used as a title by Muslim sovereigns.
Pharaohs were the kings of ancient Egypt. The Egyptians believed their pharaoh to be the mediator between the gods and the world of men. After death the pharaoh became divine and passed on his sacred powers and position to the new pharaoh, his son. The pharaoh’s will was supreme, and he governed by royal decree.
A dictatorship is a form of government in which one person or a small group possesses absolute power without effective constitutional limitations. The term dictatorship comes from the Latin title dictator, which in the Roman Republic designated a temporary magistrate who was granted extraordinary powers in order to deal with state crises.

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