Understanding Different Forms of Government: Lesson EIght

Part One: Governmental Terms

Look over this short list of governmental terms.

Anarchy: “the rule of the mob”
Aristocracy: The country is ruled by one elite class.
Example: The elite class are lords and barons, and they make the decisions
Democracy: “the rule of the people.” In this type of government, all citizens have input about governmental decisions through their right to vote and their nomination of governmental leaders.
Direct democracy: The laws are voted upon by the council and all the citizens. Every citizen has a direct vote on every single political issue.
Monarchy: “the rule of one person”
Examples of a monarchial ruler includes a king. In a monarchy, the king makes all the laws and rules the entire land.
Theocracy: “The rule of the church”
Many countries use religious rules and beliefs to determine their rules and regulations. These countries hold the religious books sacred and take direct counsel and advice from religious teachers.

Part Two: Informational Readings

Read this passage about different forms of government.

Throughout the world and history, there have been and still are many different types of governmental systems. In America, we have a democracy. We understand a democracy to be a government that is run by the people. But did you know that our form of government is technically referred to as a representative democracy? A representative democracy means that citizens (hey, that’s us!) vote for someone to represent them in the government (like the President, senators and the congress). The people that we elect are responsible for voting on rules and regulations, and then enforcing these rules and regulations.

But, Americans did not create the democratic system. No, democracy has been around a lot longer than we have been! The word “democracy” is actually a Greek word meaning “rule of the people”. It can be traced back to about 500 BCE to the Greek city-state of Athens. Long before we were even alive, this ancient city put democracy into use. Years later, we simply replicated their system. Their system, however, was slightly different from ours. From what we can gather, in ancient Athens, all male citizens met and gathered to vote on political matters. This system became know as a direct democracy because every citizen was directly involved in decision making.

But, not everyone country has a democratic system. England, for example, used to be a monarchy. This means they were led by a King, and that King had absolute power and say in the rules and regulations of the country. The English people, however, were not pleased with his authority. To end the monarchial reign, the people signed the Magna Carta in 1215. This document limited the King of England’s authority under his monarchical rule. Under the Magna Carta the king’s power was limited and his decisions were subjected to a review.

As another result of the Magna Carta, a group emerged, known as the parliament, that became responsible for reviewing the King’s decisions. Parliament members were either appointed by their status, or elected by citizens. As their influence grew, England became a “parliamentary democracy”. This type of government is formed by one party taking control of the majority of seats in the parliament. The majority then appoints a president.

Part Three: Practice Questions

1. Match the correct term in the word bank with the examples below.

Word Bank: Aristocracy, Monarchy, Theocracy, democracy

A. From 1500 to 1050 BCE, the Chang Dynasty ruled China. The rulers during this period were all from the family, and the power was passed through their lineage. During this dynasty, members of an elite class were allowed to have slaves and were granted many other privileges.


B. In France, from 1643-1715, King Louis XIV ruled as king.

Answer: Monarchy

C. In Rome, the Vatican is ruled by the Pope.

Answer: Theocracy

D. Every four years Americans nominate a new President.

Answer: Democracy

2. A _______________ democracy is a form of government in which every citizen votes specifically for the country’s laws.

A. Direct
B. Representative

Answer: Direct </strong?>

3. A small militia has recently taken over a country and is imposing rules and regulations through force. What type of government might this be considered?

A. Theocracy
B. Aristocracy
C. Anarchy

Answer: C. Anarchy