Chris Harman

A people’s history of the world






Abelard, Pierre: 13th century thinker condemned by church. Castrated after secret love-affair with Heloïse.

Alexander the Great: Macedonian ruler who established Greek Empire over whole of Middle East from Indus to Nile.

Ali: Son-in-law of Mohammed, hero of ‘Shias’ opposed to what they saw as ‘degeneration’ of Islam from late 7th century onwards.

Allende, Salvador: Middle of road member of Chilean Socialist Party president of country 1970-73, overthrown by military coup which killed thousands. Committed suicide after organising armed defence of presidential palace.

Aquinas, Thomas: 13th century theologian, influenced by Aristotle’s writings. His ideas laid basis for Catholic orthodoxy in centuries after.

Aristotle: Ancient Greek philosopher and scientist. Disciple of Plato but developed very different philosophy dominant in Europe in late Middle Ages.

Ashoka (sometimes Asoka): Ruler of Mauryan Empire at its peak in 4th century BC. Converted to Buddhism.

Augustine of Hippo: Christian bishop of around AD 400, writings influenced mainstream Christian theology for next 1,000 years.

Augustus: First Roman emperor, 27 BC to AD 14.

Aurangzeb: Last Mogul emperor to exercise great power. Imprisoned his father, Shah Jahan, in fort in Agra. Tried, unsuccessfully to cement his rule by imposing Islam upon imperial officials.

Averroes (ibn-Rushd): 12th century Arab philosopher in Moorish Spain, commentaries on works of Aristotle very influential among 13th century Christian scholars.

Bacon, Roger: 13th century scholar and scientist. Wrote down formula for gunpowder for first time in Europe.

Beaverbrook, Lord: Max Aitken, Canadian-born British newspaper millionaire, government minister in 1916 and 1940-42.

Bernstein, Eduard: Former collaborator with Engels, major supporter of reformism within German socialism at end of 19th century Opposed First World War, but also revolution.

Bismarck, Otto von: Aristocrat, chancellor of Prussia and then of Germany 1862-90, responsible for wars which established German Empire as capitalist state.

Blanc, Louis: French socialist leader of mid-19th century who believed in method of reforms from existing state, played key role in Republican government of February-June 1848.

Blanqui, August: French revolutionary who believed in dictatorship of proletariat to be brought about by insurrectionary conspiracies – spent much of life in prison.

Blum, Leon: Leader of French Socialist Party (SFIO), prime minister in Popular Front governments 1936-37. Imprisoned in Germany in Second World War.

Brecht, Bertolt: Foremost German playwright (and poet) of 20th century, Communist from late 1920s onwards.

Brezhnev, Leonid: Ruler of USSR from 1964 to 1982, period characterised by strengthening of central repression, but also by growing economic stagnation.

Brissot, Jacques Pierre: Journalist, leader of Girondin Party during Great French Revolution, executed October 1793.

Brüning, Heinrich: Leader of German Catholic Centre Party and chancellor 1930-32.

Brutus: Best known assassin of Julius Caesar.

Bukharin, Nicolai: Russian Bolshevik leader and theoretician. Allied with Stalin in mid-1920s. Executed by Stalin 1937.

Burke, Edmund Late 18th century Whig opponent of British colonialism in America and oppression in Ireland who became leading Tory propagandist against French Revolution.

Caballero, Largo: Leader of Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE), minister of labour 1931-33, imprisoned after Asturias rising of 1934, prime minister 1936-37, forced to resign May 1937.

Caesar, Julius: Former supporter of Marius who conquered Gaul and then got support of poor when he seized dictatorial power in 49 BC, assassinated 44 BC.

Calvin, Jean: French born leader of one wing of Reformation in mid-16th century preached doctrine that everything is ordained by god in advance, effective ruler of Geneva.

Castro, Fidel: Landowner’s son who led guerrilla force in Cuba 1956-58, when it took power on 31 December. Effective ruler of country since then.

Chaplin, Charlie: Most famous comic film actor in US, directed own films, with left wing stance, like Modern Times and The Great Dictator. Banned from entering US through late 1940s and 1950s.

Charles V: Ruler of Spain, Netherlands and Holy Roman Empire first half of 16th century.

Chaucer, Geoffrey: 14th century London writer, one of first to use English.

Chiang Kai Shek: General and leader of Chinese nationalist Kuomintang after 1925. Ruler of China 1927-49 and of Taiwan in 1950s and 1960s.

Churchill, Winston: English politician of first half of 20th century Enthusiast for imperialism in Africa and India, minister in pre-war Liberal government, wartime coalition government and Tory governments of 1920s. On right of Tory party in 1930s, but believed Hitler threat to British Empire. Prime minister during Second World War and again in early 1950s.

Clive, Robert: Official of East India Company responsible for Britain’s first conquests in India in 1750s.

Coleridge, Samuel Taylor: English poet of late 18th and early 19th century, friend of Wordsworth.

Collins, Michael: Military leader of Irish guerrilla forces fighting Britain after First World War. Accepted treaty with Britain and partition in 1921. Killed while leader of pro-treaty forces in 1922.

Connolly, James: Irish socialist born in Scotland 1870. Organiser for IWW in US, then for Irish Transport and General Workers Union in Belfast. Led union for first two years of world war, which he opposed. Formed workers’ Citizen Army and played leading role in Easter Rising of 1916. Shot by British government.

Constantine: Roman emperor of early 4th century AD who moved capital of empire to Byzantium and made Christianity official religion.

Copernicus: Polish monk of first half of 16th century who set out first modern European argument that earth moves round sun.

Cortes, Hernando: Led Spanish conquest of Mexico in early 1520s.

d’Holbach: French materialist philosopher of 18th century associated with Enlightenment.

Daladier, Eduard: Leader of French Radical Party prime minister 1933, 1934, 1938-40.

Dante, Alighieri: Italian poet, born Florence 1265, one of first writers in modern Italian.

Danton, Georges Jacques: Lawyer on radical wing of bourgeoisie in French Revolution. Most revolutionary figure in Girondin government of 1792, then joined with Robespierre to overthrow that government. Member of Committee of Public Safety until guillotined April 1794.

De Gaulle, Charles: Only senior figure in French army to oppose collaboration with Germany after June 1940. Figurehead for Resistance, based in London. Premier of France 1944-46. Returned to office against background of attempted coup in 1958, ran government until 1969.

De Valera, Eamon: Participant in 1916 Easter Rising, declared president of Republic in 1919, opposed treaty with Britain 1921, elected prime minister of 26-county ‘free state’ 1932. Dominated government with brief period in opposition until death 1959.

Deng Xiaoping: Veteran Chinese Communist leader, purged during Cultural Revolution of 1966-67. Return to power after death of Mao in 1976, dominated government and introduced market mechanisms. Responsible for crushing of Tiananmen Square demonstrations of 1989.

Dollfuss, Engelbert: Chancellor of Austria 1932, proclaimed himself dictator May 1933, put down socialist rising February 1934, assassinated by rival Nazi organisation July 1934.

Dreiser, Theodore: Major American realist novelist of first third of 20th century.

Durutti, Buenaventura: Most famous Spanish anarcho-syndicalist. Assassinated archbishop of Saragossa in early 1920s, carried out bank robberies in Latin America in late 1920s, imprisoned for leading uprisings under second Spanish republic 1931-34. Helped organise rising against attempted military coup in Barcelona July 1936, led military column into Aragon, killed on Madrid front, end of 1936.

Eisner, Kurt: German Social Democrat in Munich, supported Bernstein’s social reformism but opposed First World War. Revolutionary workers and soldiers made him prime minister of Bavaria, November 1919. Murdered by right wing officer.

Erasmus: Early 16th century north European thinker of Renaissance, born in Holland and lived for time in England. Opposed Reformation, but condemned by counter-Reformation.

Feuerbach, Ludwig: German materialist philosopher of 1840s who saw that humans had created god, not vice versa.

Ford, Henry: Founder of Ford car company, established world’s first car assembly plant, vehement opponent of trade unions, sympathetic to Hitler in 1930s.

Franco, Francisco: Spanish general, crushed Asturias rising 1934, led coup of July 1936 and fascist forces in civil war. Dictator 1939-75.

Franklin, Benjamin: Rich printer and publisher in mid-18th century Pennsylvania. Agent for US colonies in London, friend of French Enlightenment intellectuals and scientist in his own right. Signatory to Declaration of Independence in 1776.

Friedman, Milton: Free market economist, with ‘monetarist’ belief that if governments control money supply properly crises are impossible.

Galileo: Astronomer and physicist of late 16th and early 17th century who laid foundations of modern physics.

Gandhi, Mahatma: London educated lawyer who donned peasant clothes to lead Indian national movement after First World War. Opposed violent methods and strikes which might affect Indian capitalists, assassinated by Hindu chauvinists 1948. No relation to Indira Gandhi.

Gibbon, Edward: English historian of 18th century whose Decline and fall of the Roman Empire was scathing about influence of Christianity

Giolitti, Giovanni: Bourgeois politician who dominated Italian government before, during and immediately after First World War.

Gladstone, William: Dominant figure in Liberal Party as main party of industrial capital, in 19th century Britain.

Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von: Leading poet, playwright and novelist in Germany in late 18th and early 19th century.

Gomulka, Stanislaw: Leading Polish Communist in post-war years. Imprisoned in last period of Stalin’s life. Returned to power to popular acclaim in 1956. Imposed repression of his own. Driven from office by strikes in 1969-70.

Gordon, Charles George: British soldier who helped destroy Summer Palace in Beijing, then suppressed T’ai-p’ing rebellion in 1860s, killed at Siege of Khartoum in 1885.

Gracchus, Caius: Reformer who became hero of Roman peasantry in 120s BC. Like his brother, murdered by rich.

Gracchus, Tiberius: Reformer who became hero of Roman peasantry in 130s BC, murdered by rich.

Gramsci, Antonio: Italian revolutionary Marxist. Leading figure in movement to establish workers’ councils in Turin in 1919-20. Founder member of Italian Communist Party 1921. Took over leadership 1924-26. Imprisoned by Mussolini until shortly before his death in 1937. In prison, opposed Stalin’s ‘third period’.

Guesde, Jules: French socialist, in exile after Commune, led Marxist wing of socialist movement until he joined war cabinet in 1914.

Guevara, Che: Young Argentinian doctor among first of Castro’s guerrillas to land in Cuba in 1956. In charge of industrialisation in revolutionary regime established in 1959. Fell out with Soviet Union in mid-1960s, left Cuba to spread revolution abroad. Murdered by CIA in Bolivia in 1967.

Harmsworth, Alfred: Later Lord Northcliffe. Newspaper proprietor who produced first mass circulation right wing popular papers at end of 19th century.

Hayek, Friedrich von: Rabid pro-market economist who inspired Margaret Thatcher.

Healey, Denis: Leading figure in British Labour Party 1950s to 1980s. Minister in 1964-70 and 1974-79 governments.

Hebert, Jacques: Radical Jacobin, backed by sans culottes in Great French Revolution. Executed by Robespierre March 1794.

Hegel, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich: German philosopher of late 18th and early 19th century, developed dialectical method but in obscure way.

Helvetius: French materialist philosopher of 18th century, part of Enlightenment.

Hidalgo, Miguel: Mexican priest who led uprising against Spanish in 1810, shot in 1811.

Hilferding, Rudolf: Austrian Marxist economist, active in German socialist movement. Attempted middle way between Bolshevism and right wing Social Democracy in 1919-20. Social Democrat finance minister in coalition governments of autumn of 1923 and 1928. Resigned 1929, impotent in face of economic crisis. Murdered by Nazis in exile 1940.

Hindenburg. Paul von: Commanded German armed forces with near-dictatorial power in First World War. President of German Republic 1925-34. Appointed Hitler as chancellor January 1933.

Ho Chi Minh: Vietnamese Communist leader from 1920s. Leader of Vietminh resistance to Japanese and French colonial rule. Ruler of North Vietnam after 1954, symbol of resistance to US in 1960s and early 1970s, ruler of all Vietnam after May 1975.

Hobsbawm, Eric: British historian, Communist Party member for half a century author of four volumes of history from 1780s to present day.

Hugenberg, Alfred: German newpaper and film magnate, right wing leader of conservative National Party member of Hitler’s cabinet January-June 1933.

Iglesias, Pablo: Founded Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE) 1879, its president until 1925.

Jefferson, Thomas: Plantation owner in Virginia in second half of 18th century, drew up Declaration of Independence, president of US 1801-09.

John Knox: Leader of Calvinist Reformation in late 16th century Scotland.

Johnson, Lyndon Baines: President of US 1963-68.

Josephus: Jewish leader of revolt against Rome who switched sides and then wrote famous history.

Justinian: Emperor of Byzantium mid-6 th century AD. Tried to reconquer Italy and north Africa. Oversaw completion of Saint Sophia cathedral.

Kautsky, Karl: Best known intellectual in German socialist movement after death of Engels. Known as ‘pope of Marxism’, disliked First World War but opposed revolutionary action against it. Opponent of Bolshevik Revolution.

Kennedy, Robert: Brother of J.F. Kennedy. Attorney-general during his presidency of US 1960-63. Supporter of Vietnam War until popular opposition to it exploded in 1968. Assassinated while campaigning for presidency.

Kepler, Johannes: Astronomer and mathematician who developed Copernicus’s ideas in late 16th and early 17th centuries.

Kerensky, Alexander: Led Russian provisional government summer-autumn 1917.

Keynes, John Maynard: English liberal and free market economist who became convinced of need for state intervention in 1930s.

Khrushchev, Nikita: Former Stalinist overlord in Ukraine who became leader of USSR soon after Stalin’s death in 1953. Denounced Stalin in 1956 and 1958. Crushed Hungarian Revolution of 1956. Removed from office in 1964 by Brezhnev.

Kipling, Rudyard: British writer of late 19th and early 20th centuries, born in India.

Kissinger, Henry: In charge of foreign policy for US Republican governments 1968-76. War criminal who received Nobel Peace Prize.

Kitchener, Lord: British general responsible for Omdurman (Sudan) massacre of 1898 and concentration camps in Boer War in South Africa. Head of military in First World War until death in 1916.

Lafargue, Paul: Son-in-law of Karl Marx, led Marxist wing of French socialist movement until suicide in 1911.

Lafayette: French general, assisted American colonies in War of Independence, dominant government figure first two years of French Revolution, in exile under republic, helped Louis Philippe become king 1830.

Lamartine, Alphonse: French poet and historian who played key role in French second republic of 1848.

Lenin, Vladimir: Early member of Marxist organisation in Russia, leader of its Bolshevik wing after 1903. Leader of Soviet government after 1917, incapacitated early 1923, died 1924.

Lewis, John L: Leader of US miners’ union, founded CIO union federation mid-1930s.

Liebknecht, Karl: German Social Democrat MP, opponent of First World War, founder member of Spartakusbund revolutionary group, imprisoned, proclaimed socialist republic November 1918, murdered January 1919.

Liu Shaoqi (Liu Shao-ch’i): Leading Chinese Communist from late 1920s on. President after 1962. Removed from office and disgraced during Cultural Revolution 1966-67.

Lloyd George, David: A leader of British Liberal Party 1900-40. Introduced radical budget before First World War, but formed coalition with Tories 1916 and ruled with them until 1922. Partitioned Ireland 1921.

Louis Bonaparte (also known as Napoleon III): Nephew of Napoleon Bonaparte (Napoleon I), elected president of France 1848, emperor 1852-70.

Louis XIV: French king whose reign saw enormous growth in power of monarchy built palace at Versailles.

Louis XV: Ruler of France for much of first half of 18th century

Loyola, Ignatius: Founded Jesuits to propagate Roman Catholicism forcefully in mid-16th century.

Ludendorff, Erich: German general with virtually dictatorial powers alongside Hindenburg in First World War. Allied with Hitler in 1923 but later fell out with him.

Luther, Martin: Dissident German monk who led Protestant break with Rome after 1517.

Luxemburg. Rosa: Born of Jewish family in Russian-occupied Poland in 1871. In exile from late 1880s. Leader of revolutionary left within both German and Polish socialist movements. In prison in First World War, murdered January 1919.

Macchiavelli, Niccolo: Civil servant in Florence around 1500, famous for his book The Prince, which seems to glorify the most unscrupulous political methods.

MacDonald, Ramsay: Founder member of Independent Labour Party in Britain in mid-1890s, leader of Labour Party before First World War. Opposed war from non-revolutionary standpoint 1914. Prime minister in Labour minority governments 1924 and 1929-31. Switched sides to lead Tory ‘National’ government 1931-35.

Mahdi: Mohammed Ahmed, leader of Sudanese revolt against British-run Egypt in 1880s.

Malraux, André: Left wing French writer of late 1920s and early 1930s. Helped organise Republican air force in Spanish Civil War. Supporter of General de Gaulle after Second World War. Minister in Gaullist governments after 1958.

Malthus, Thomas: English clergyman of late 18th and early 19th centuries – his theory of population claimed increasing their wealth would make the poor poorer.

Mann, Tom: Engineering worker, played leading role in dock strike of 1889, Great Unrest 1910-14, joined Communist Party 1921.

Mao Zedong (Mao Tse-tung): Leader of Chinese Communist Party from early 1930s and of Chinese government after 1949. Played only figurehead role 1962-66. Returned to full influence with ‘Cultural Revolution’. Died 1975.

Marat, Jean-Paul: Doctor to upper classes who became hero of poor during French Revolution after 1789. Worked with Robespierre and Danton to establish Jacobin government in 1793, hated by ‘moderates’ and assassinated July 1793.

Marcuse, Herbert: German Marxist philosopher living in US after Hitler came to power. Inspirer of many left wing ideas in 1968.

Marie-Antoinette: Austrian princess and queen of France executed by revolution.

Marius: General who used support of poor to push for power in Rome around 100 BC.

Mary Stuart: Mary Queen of Scots, executed by Elizabeth I of England.

Mary Tudor: ‘Bloody Mary’, queen of England and wife of Philip II of Spain, tried to reimpose Roman Catholicism in England in mid-16th century

McClellan, George: Head of Northern army in American Civil War, 1861-62.

Medici: Name of merchant and banking family that dominated life of 15th and 16th century Florence. Patrons of many Renaissance artists. Included two popes, and a 16th century French queen.

Moctezunia (sometimes Montezuma): Aztec ruler conquered by Spanish.

Molotov, Vyacheslav: Bolshevik activist in 1917, supporter of Stalin from early 1920s, leading figure in Russian regime until purged by Khrushchev 1958.

Morelos, Jose Maria: Mexican priest, led revolt against Spanish after death of Hidalgo, shot 1815.

Müntzer, Thomas (sometimes spelt Münzer): Religious revolutionary during Reformation who played important role during Peasant War of 1525, executed byprinces with support of Martin Luther. Not to be confused with town of Munster, which subsequent religious rebels seized in early 1530s.

Mussolini, Benito: Leader of Italian fascism. Started off as left wing socialist, became enthusiastic nationalist in First World War. Took power 1922, invaded Ethiopia 1935, j oined war on German side 1940, overthrown in southern Italy 1943, ran pro-German puppet government in north, hanged upside down by partisans 1945.

Nasser, Abdul: Army officer, led revolution against Egyptian monarchy 1952, president 1956 until death in 1970. Inspired nationalists throughout Arab world.

Nehru, Jawaharlal: Harrow educated leader of Indian National Congress from 1920s. Imprisoned Second World War, prime minister 1947-64.

Nixon, Richard: US president and war criminal, driven from office for Watergate burglary of Democratic Party office in 1975.

Octavian: Later Roman emperor Augustus, nephew of Julius Caesar.

Orwell, George: English writer, socialist in 1930s, fought in Spain with far left POUM party supported revolutionary stance in Homage to Catalonia, satirised Stalinism in Animal Farm and 1984.

Owen, Robert: Pioneering industrialist of early 19th century who became convinced of need for form of socialism based on cooperative communities.

Paine, Tom: British-born artisan, leading pamphleteer for American Revolution, returned to Britain to champion French Revolution, forced to flee country and then imprisoned by Jacobins in France.

Palmerston, Lord: Dominant figure in many British Whig governments of 1830s to 1860s.

Papen, Franz von: Chancellor of Germany May-November 1932, vice-chancellor in Hitler’s government 1933-34, then ambassador for Nazi regime.

Paul, Saint: Saul of Tarsus, Jew with Roman citizenship, converted to Christianity. Responsible for spread of Christianity across Greek and Roman worlds and for most of its doctrines.

Peron, Juan: Colonel, president of Argentina 1946 with mass popular support and dictatorial powers. Overthrown 1955. Returned to power mid-1973, succeeded on death by wife ‘Isabelita’, who was overthrown by coup in 1976.

Pizarro, Francisco: Led Spanish conquest of Incas in early 1530s.

Plato: Ancient Greek philosopher, disciple of Socrates. His views influenced Christian theology from 5th to 14th centuries.

Priestley, Joseph: Late 18th century English chemist, and enthusiast for French Revolution.

Proudhon, Pierre-Joseph: French socialist writer of 1840s to 1860s, opposed political action by workers, believed society should be run as ‘mutual’ association of independent small producers.

Ptolemy (Claudius): Mathematician and astronomer whose picture of universe with sun and planets going round earth dominated throughout European Middle Ages.

Radek, Karl: Polish revolutionary joined Bolsheviks in 1917, leading figure in early Communist International, supported Trotsky 1924-28, then went over to Stalin. Died in slave labour camp after Moscow trials.

Robespierre, Maximilien: Lawyer from Arras in northern France who led most revolutionary, ‘Jacobin’, section of bourgeoisie in 1789-94, when executed.

Roosevelt, Franklin D: US president 1933-45.

Rothermere, Lord: Brother of Alfred Harmsworth (Lord Northcliffe), ran press empire of his own, minister in British First World War government. Supported fascist Blackshirts in mid-1930s.

Roux, Jacques: Ex-priest who played key role in agitating among sans culottes of Paris in Great French Revolution. Committed suicide rather than face execution February 1794.

Russell, Bertrand: Major British empiricist philosopher and polemicist from 1890s to 1960. Reformist socialist, opposed First World War and Vietnam War.

Saint-Just, Louis: Close colleague of Robespierre during Great French Revolution. Executed after Thermidor aged 27. Famous for statement, ‘Those who half make a revolution dig their own graves.’

Sargon: First ruler to establish empire over all of Fertile Crescent, around 2300 BC.

Saul of Tarsus: Original name of Saint Paul.

Say, Jean Baptiste: French economist of early 19th century whose ‘law’ claimed overproduction impossible.

Serge, Victor: Born in Belgium to Russian family, jailed for anarchist sympathies in France before First World War, exiled to Spain, went to Russia 1919 to join Bolsheviks, worked for Communist International, supported Trotsky’s opposition to Stalin, freed to go to France just before Moscow trials, escaped advancing German army to Mexico in 1940. Author of novels, particularly The Case of Comrade Tulayev, Memoirs of a Revolutionary, and history, Year One of the Russian Revolution.

Shaw, George Bernard: Major playwright and polemicist first half of 20th century. Born in Dublin, lived in England. Founder of Fabian Society

Shelley, Percy Bysshe: English poet of early 19th century, supporter of revolutionary ideas, died in sailing accident 1822.

Shlyapnikov, Alexander: Bolshevik metal worker and organiser before and during First World War, commissar for labour in revolutionary government in 1918, leader of ‘workers’ opposition’ in 1920-21, reconciled with Stalin in mid-1920s, disappeared mid-1930s.

Smith, Adam: Scottish economist of 18th century, part of Scottish Enlightenment, influenced both mainstream modern economics and Karl Marx.

Spartacus: Leader of best known slave revolt in ancient Rome.

Sulla: Roman general of 1st century BC, used vicious repression to break opponents and poor. Sun Yat-sen: Founder and leader of Chinese national movement and Kuomintang party until death in 1925.

Thiers, Louis Adolphe: Former royal minister, president of French third republic 1871, organised crushing of Paris Commune.

Thorez, Maurice: Leader of French Communist Party from late 1920s, vice-premier of France 1945-47.

Tito, Josip: Communist leader of Yugoslavia 1945-80. Broke with Stalin 1948.

Tressell, Robert (Robert Noonan): Housepainter, socialist and novelist of first decade 20th century, died in poverty 1911 aged 40.

Trotsky, Leon: Russian revolutionary from late 1890s, president of St Petersburg Soviet 1905, opposed Lenin until joined Bolsheviks in 1917, organiser of October insurrection, founder of Red Army, opposed Stalinism, exiled from Russia 1929, assassinated by Stalin’s agent 1940.

Vargas, Getulio: Dictator of Brazil 1937-45, president 1950-54.

Wallenstein (sometimes Waldstein): General-in-chief of imperial armies during first part of Thirty Years War. Assassinated on orders of emperor at the height of his successes.

Webb, Beatrice and Sidney: Founders of Fabian version of gradualist socialism in Britain in 1880s. Opposed Bolshevik Revolution, praised Stalin’s Russia in 1930s.

Weber, Max: German sociologist of beginning of 20th century

Wellington, Duke of: Head of British armies against Napoleon in Peninsular War and Battle of Waterloo, later Tory prime minister.

Wells, H.G.: Popular English novelist 1890s to early 1940s, pioneer of science fiction, populariser of science and history

Wilberforce, William: English MP who led parliamentary campaign against slave trade in late 18th and early 19th centuries.

Wilkes, John: 18th century English journalist and MP. Gained support of London merchants and London mob, clashed with George III’s government, was expelled from parliament and imprisoned. Later became Lord Mayor of London and pillar of establishment.

Wilson, Woodrow: US president 1913-21.

Wycliffe, John: 14th century English precursor of Reformation.

Zhou Enlai (Chou En-lai): Prominent Chinese Communist from mid-1920s onwards, prime minister throughout 1950s, 1960s and early 1970s.

Zola, Emile: Major French realist novelist of second half of 19th century, sentenced to prison for defending Dreyfus.


Aegean: Sea and islands to east and south east of Greece. Also sometimes used for Bronze Age civilisation of mainland Greece.

Agra: Indian town, south of Delhi, where Taj Mahal is situated

Alsace-Lorraine: Area now in north east of France, but annexed by Germany between 1871 and 1919, and between 1940 and 1944.

Aragon: Inland north east region of modern Spanish state. Kingdom that included Catalonia in late medieval and early modern times.

Armenia: Region east of Asia Minor, between Black and Caspian seas. Today name of former Soviet republic.

Asia Minor: Asiatic part of modern Turkey often called Anatolia.

Assyria: Area in what is today southern Turkey centre of great Middle Eastern empire in 7th century BC.

Bohemia: North western half of present day Czech Republic, with capital in Prague. From 13th to 17th centuries important centre of (mainly German speaking) Holy Roman Empire.

Burgundy: Territory in northern and eastern France that came close to developing into separate state in 15th century.

Byzantium: City on stretch of water connecting Mediterranean to Black Sea. From 4th century on called Constantinople and, from late 15th century Istanbul. Also name given to Greek speaking remnant of Roman Empire from 5th to 15th centuries.

Castile: Central region in Spain, where modern Spanish state and language originated.

Catalonia: Province in north east of Spanish state, stretching south from French border, with its own language. In medieval period separate entity including parts of southern France. In 20th century contained strong nationalist movement, and today has own parliament within Spanish state.

Charleston: Important port-city in South Carolina in US.

Cordoba: City in Spain that was a centre of Islamic civilization in Middle Ages. Also Argentinian city.

Fertile Crescent: Region of Middle East including Palestine, Lebanon, northern Syria and most of Iraq.

Flanders: Medieval name for western Belgium around Ghent and Bruges and northern slice of France between Lille and Dunkirk. Today name for half of Belgium in which they speak version of Dutch known as ‘Flemish’.

Gaul: Roman name for what is now France. Included northern slice of Italy.

Giza: Couple of miles due west of modern Cairo, where biggest Egyptian pyramids were built.

Granada: Last Moorish city to fall to Spanish monarchy

Hanseatic cities: German ports on North Sea and Baltic in late medieval period

Harappa: Third millennium BC city on Indus.

Hellespont Straits: West of Istanbul joining Mediterranean to Black Sea, also called Dardanelles.

Hispaniola: Name for Caribbean island including modern Haiti and Dominican Republic.

Holy Roman Empire: Empire originally established by Charlemagne in 9th century. Persisted as disparate collection of territories in Germany eastern Europe and Italy until 19th century when it became known as Austrian Empire and then Austro-Hungarian Empire.

Iberian Peninsula: Term for Spain and Portugal.

Indochina: Region of Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos.

Indus Valley: Today eastern part of Pakistan, close to Indian border.

Ionian: Sea and islands to west of Greece.

Kampuchea: Cambodia.

Knossos: Site of palace of Crete civilisation of 2000 to 1500 BC.

Lagash: City state in third millennium BC Mesopotamia

Low Countries: Region including present day Belgium and Holland

Macedonia: Region in Balkans north of Greece.

Maghreb: North African region including Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia.

Mahagda: State in 6th century BC northern India that led to Mauryan Empire.

Mecca: Trading city in western Arabian peninsula. Birthplace of Mohammed and most important holy city of Islam. Today in Saudi Arabia.

Meso-America: Region including Mexico and Guatemala.

Mesopotamia: Old name for what is now Iraq. Literally means ‘between two rivers’ – i.e. valley of Euphrates and Tigris.

Mohenjo-dero: Third millennium BC city on Indus.

Nanking: Chinese city on Yangtze, upriver from Shanghai.

New Lanark: Town near Glasgow where Robert Owen managed ‘model’ factories.

Nubia: Region of southern Egypt and northern Sudan.

Palatine: Area of western Germany, principality during Holy Roman Empire.

Phoenicia: Name for coast of Lebanon in ancient world.

Piedmont: Area in northern Italy around Turin, ruled by king who became king of Italy in late 1860s.

Prussia: Kingdom in eastern Germany centred on Berlin, whose ruler became emperor of Germany in 1870. Biggest state in Germany until 1945.

Rhineland: Area of south west Germany adjacent to French and Belgian borders.

Ruhr: Area in Germany north of Rhineland and close to Belgian border, main centre of German industrial revolution.

Saint Domingue: Name for Haiti before slave revolt of 1790s.

Samarkand: Imporant trading city in central Asia throughout Middle Ages.

Saqqara: Few miles south east of modern Cairo, where first pyramids and tombs built.

Silesia: Area in south of present day Poland. Disputed between Poles and Germans until end of Second World War.

Sparta: City state on southern mainland of ancient Greece, historic rival of Athens.

Sumer: Name for Mesopotamian civilisation of third century BC.

Tenochtitlan: Artec capital, rebuilt as Mexico City by Spanish conquerors.

Teotihuacan: City and name of civilisation built in first centuries AD close to present day Mexico City.

Thebes: Ancient Egyptian city capital in Middle and New Kingdoms, close to present day Luxor (also, confusingly name of an ancient Greek city state).

Third World: Term used after 1950s to describe former colonial and semi-colonial countries.

Thuringia: Region of central Germany.

Transylvania: Mountainous region between modern Hungary and Romania, claimed by both.

Ulster: Northern nine counties of Ireland, used by pro-British Loyalists to describe six-county statelet established in 1921.

Uruk: City state in 3rd millennium BC Mesopotamia.

Valley of Mexico: Area around present day Mexico City. centre of Teotihuacan and Aztec civilisations.

Valmy: Place in northern France where revolutionary army won first great victory against royalist invaders in 1792.

Versailles: Town outside Paris where Louis XIV established great palace. Centre of force directed against Paris Commune in 1871. Meeting place of conference which carved up world at behest of Britain and France in aftermath of First World War.

Waterloo: Village in France where Napoleon suffered final defeat in 1815. Not to be confused with London railway station of same name.

Yangtze: Great river running west to east across middle of China. Enters sea near Shanghai.

Yellow River: Great river running southwards then west to east across northern China. Centre of first Chinese civilisations. Has changed course with catastrophic results historically.


Abbasids: Dynasty that ruled Islamic Empire in Middle East from mid-8th to 13th century, without real power after 10th century.

Absolutism/absolutist monarchy: Powerful monarchic regimes that existed in countries like France, Spain, Prussia, Austria and Russia from mid-17th century onwards.

Acropolis: Hill overlooking Athens on which stands the Parthenon, a temple built in 6th century BC.

Active citizens: Men with votes under property franchise in France 1790-92.

Ahimsa: Non-violence in Buddhism and some versions of Hinduism

Anarcho-syndicalism: Movement combining trade union methods of struggle with anarchist notions.

Ancien regime: French for ‘old regime’, name often given to social order in Europe prior to French Revolution.

Arianism: Version of Christianity very influential in 5th century AD which disagreed with Catholicism on interpretation of trinity.

Artisan: Slightly archaic term referring to someone, usually self-employed, skilled in handicraft production.

Aryans: People who invaded north India around 1500 BC. Spoke an Indo-European language. Not be confused with ‘Arian’ heresy prevalent in 5th century AD Christianity.

Auto da fé: Place of execution for ‘heretics’, victims of the Inquisition.

Bantu: Family of languages spoken in west, central and southern Africa

Barbarians: Old term for purely agricultural form of society, used by Morgan, Engels and Gordon Childe.

Battle of White Mountain: Where Bohemian forces suffered first big defeat in Thirty Years War.

Boer War 1899-1902: War over British annexation of mineral rich Boer territory in southern Africa.

Boers: Dutch speaking white settlers in southern Africa, also called Afrikaners.

Bourbon: Family name of French monarchs of 17th and 18th centuries, and of Spanish monarchs after early 18th century

Bourgeoisie: Originally French term for middle class town dwellers, used since early 19th century to mean members of capitalist class.

Bronze Age: Term sometimes used to describe period of urban revolution in Eurasia and Africa.

Burghers: Full citizens of medieval and early modern towns, usually merchants or independent craftsmen. Sometimes called ‘burgesses’ in England. Origin of French word ‘bourgeois’.

Carmagnole: French revolutionary dance.

Carlists: Supporters of rival dynasty to Spanish monarchy, bitter opponents of even mildest schemes for modernisation or liberalisation, from 1830s to fascist victory in 1939.

Caste: Form of social organisation in which people are born into a specific social category from which they cannot (in theory) escape. Associated with Hinduism. Hierarchy of castes often, in practice, cuts across hierarchy based on class power, so that today not all upper-caste Hindus are rich, although the great majority of the members of the lowest castes are poor.

Cavaliers: Name given to royalist troops in English Civil War.

CGT: Main French trade union federation, founded by syndicalists before First World War, run by Communist Party since Second World War.

Ch’in: Empire that united northern China in 221 BC.

Chieftainship Anthropologists’ term for society in which some people have higher standing than others but there is no clear division into class and no separate state.

Chin: Turkic Dynasty that ruled northern half of China in 12th century

Chou: Dynasty that ran a loose ‘feudal’ empire in China after about 1100 BC.

Clan: See lineage.

CNT (Confederacion Nacional de Trabajo): Anarcho-syndicalist led union in Spain.

Communards: Participants in Paris Commune of 1871.

Commune: Term often used for a medieval town, or for the council which ran it. Used for city council of Paris during revolution of 1789-95. Used to describe elected revolutionary committee which ran city for workers in 1871. Used to describe ‘collective’ (effectively state-run) farms in China in late 1950s and 1960s.

Communist International (Comintern): Centralised international organisation of revolutionary parties established in 1919, dominated by Stalin from mid-1920s until dissolved during Second World War.

Concessions: European or Japanese governed enclaves within Chinese cities.

Confucianism: Ideology dominant among bureaucratic and landowning class in China through most of last 2,000 years.

Constituent assembly: Elected parliamentary-type body that exists simply to establish new constitution.

Convention: Name for France’s elected national assembly during revolutionary years 1792-96.

Council of Trent: Council of Catholic church used to launch counter-Reformation against Protestantism

Crown prince: Heir to throne.

Duma: Parliament in pre-revolutionary Russia, elected on undemocratic basis.

East India Company: Monopoly set up by English crown for trading with south Asia in early 17th century. Conquered and ran much of India between 1760s and 1850s. Replaced by direct British government rule after mutiny of 1857.

Eastern Question: Problem posed by major powers by long drawn out weakening and fragmentation of Turkish Empire in Balkan and Black Sea regions.

Elector: Term for some princes of Holy Roman Empire in Germany

Émigrés: Term used to describe aristocrats who fled and plotted against revolution in France.

Enclosures: Fencing of formerly open farm and common land by landowners and capitalist farmers, so forcing poorer peasants either to abandon the land for life in the towns or to become agricultural labourers.

Enlightenment: 18th century intellectual current which attempted to replace superstition by scientific reasoning – associated with Voltaire, Diderot, Rousseau, Hume, Gibbon.

Equites: Name for groups of new rich excluded from power in 1st century BC Rome by Senatorial families.

Estates: Term for legally defined social strata with different legal rights and responsibilities – lords, knights and burghers, for instance, in medieval Europe, and nobility clergy and others in pre-revolutionary France. Also sometimes used to describe parliamentary-type bodies which contained representatives of different groups (e.g. in Bohemia at time of Thirty Years War).

Estates-General: Assemblies from representatives of three sections of French population under pre-revolutionary monarch – nobles, clergy and others – met in 1789 for first time in 175 years.

Falange: Name given to movements inspired in Spain and Lebanon by Italian fascism

Fatimids: Dynasty that ruled Egypt in 11th and 12th centuries.

FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation): Federal US police and secret police organisation.

Fedérés: Volunteers from outside Paris who marched to the city to defend the French Revolution in 1792.

Feudal dues: Payment which peasants had to make to feudal lords, even when no longer serfs.

Foraging: Better term for hunting and gathering.

Franciscans: Christian religious order based on teachings of St Francis in early 13th century. Stressed virtues of poverty but safely incorporated by feudal church.

Fratelli: 13th century Christians whose doctrines were similar to St Francis’s but drew near-revolutionary conclusions from them. Persecuted by church.

Freikorps: Right wing mercenary force used against German workers in 1919-20.

Fronde: Short period of political turmoil in mid-17th century France which only briefly interrupted the strengthening of the domination of the aristocracy by the monarchy.

Gens: See lineage.

Gentry: Well-to-do landowners, as distinct from great aristocrats. Used in relation both to Sung China and to 17th and 18th century England.

Girondins: Less revolutionary wing of Jacobin club in French Revolution 1791-92, in bitter opposition to Robespierre.

Goths (also Visigoths, Ostrogoths, Franks): Germanic peoples who conquered various parts of former Roman Empire in west in 5th century AD and after.

Great Depression: Period of economic crises in late 1870s and 1880s. The term is also sometimes used to refer to 1930s.

Great Inca: Term for Inca emperor.

Grisettes: Colloquial expression for young French working class women in 19th century.

Guilds: Organisations of artisans and craftspeople designed to protect interests by regulating prices and quality of goods. Often sponsored by monarchy or city state.

Guptas: Emperors ruling part of India in early centuries AD.

Habeas corpus: Legal rule preventing imprisonment without trial.

Hadiths: Collection of sayings ascribed to prophet Mohammed.

Han: Dynasty that ruled China from 206 BC to AD 220. Also term sometimes used to refer to ethnic Chinese as opposed to other inhabitants of the country

Hellenes: Greeks.

Helots: Serfs working land in ancient Sparta.

Hidalgo: Spanish word for ‘gentleman’.

Holy Communion: Christian rite in which priest drinks wine and feeds bread to congregation, held by Catholics and Lutherans (but not Calvinists) to involve consumption of ‘blood and body of Christ’. Cause of enormous disputes in Reformation.

Home Rule: Scheme for Britain to devolve certain powers to the parliament of a united Ireland

Horticulture: Simplest form of agriculture, involving use of light tools like digging stick and hoe.

Huguenots: French Protestants who followed ideas of Calvin, driven into exile in 17th century

Huns: People from central Asia who invaded Europe and northern India from late 4th century onwards. Eventually some settled in modern Hungary

Hussites: Religious rebels in early 15th century Bohemia, precursors of Protestant Reformation of 17th century.

Hyksos: People who attacked Egypt around 1700 to 1600 BC, usually considered to be from Palestine.

Independent Labour Party: Precursor of Labour Party in 1890s Britain, existed as part of Labour Party from 1906 until early 1930s.

Independent Social Democrats (Independents): Left parliamentary socialist split from German social democracy during the First World War. Half joined Communists in 1920, other half went back to main social democratic party.

Independents: Name given to ‘Win The War’ group around Cromwell in English Civil War. See also Independent Social Democrats.

Indo-European: Family of languages including Greek, Latin, German, Russian, Sanskrit, Hindi, Urdu, Persian, Kurdish. Inquisition: Institution of Catholic church in late medieval and early modern period for stamping out heresy.

Izvestia: Paper started by workers’ Soviets in 1917 Russia. From 1920s to late 1980s, mouthpiece of Russian government.

Jacobins: Members of most important revolutionary club in Paris after 1789-94. At first included ‘moderates’ like Girondins as well as more revolutionary elements. Later term was applied to most determined section, led by Robespierre. Used outside France to refer to all supporters of the revolution.

Jesuits (Society of Jesus): Religious order founded in mid-16th century to combat Reformation. Seen as centre of religious reaction by Protestants and free thinkers alike until 20th century. Briefly became vehicle for exponents of left wing ‘liberation theology’ after 1960s until purged by pope.

Journée: Term used to describe mobilisation of Parisian population for revolt during French Revolution.

Journeymen: Skilled workers employed in workshops of late medieval and early modern Europe – they would often expect to become self employed master craftsmen one day

Junkers: Landed nobility of eastern regions of 18th and 19th century Germany

Kadets: Constitutional Democrat Party in pre-revolutionary Russia, opposed to Tsarist absolutism but also to workers’ movement.

Kaiser: German emperor.

Kulak: Russian term for capitalist farmer or rich peasant.

Kuomintang: Chinese nationalist party government of China 1927-49, government of Taiwan since.

Rush: Name for ancient Nubian civilisation.

Latifundia: Term for large landed estates in both ancient Rome and modern Latin America.

Left Hegelians: Group of liberal-democratic intellectuals in 1840s Germany who turned ideas of conservative philosopher Hegel against Prussian monarchy

Lineage: Form of social organisation which links people on basis of blood relationships – also called ‘clan’ or ‘gens’.

Luddites: Weavers and stocking-makers who destroyed new machinery installed by capitalists in great wave of revolt in 1811-16 – often used as derogatory term meaning opponents of technical progress.

Madrasas: Islamic religious schools.

Mamlukes: Soldiers of Turkish origin in Middle East empires of Middle Ages. Formally slaves, they seized power in Egypt in 12th century and ruled it until Ottoman conquest in 1517.

Manicheism: Religion founded by Mani in 3rd century AD which combined Christian, Buddhist and Zoroastrian notions.

Materialism: View which denies that spirit or thought can exist independently of material existence.

Maurya: Empire that united most of present day India in 4th century BC.

Mayas: Inhabitants of southern Mexico and Guatemala who established civilisation from about AD 700.

Mechanics: Old word for artisans or craftsmen.

Meiji Revolution: Change which ended Japanese feudalism in 1860s.

Mensheviks: Wing of socialist movement in Russia after 1903 that tended to look to collaboration with the bourgeoisie.

Middle Kingdom: Egypt from about 2000 to 1780 BC.

Middling people: Embryonic middle class of small farmers and tradesmen at time of English Civil War.

Ming: Dynasty which ruled China from AD 1368 to 1644.

Mongols: People from east and central Asia who moved right across Eurasia, invading kingdoms and empires in Middle East, eastern Europe, Iran, India and China from 12th to 14th centuries.

Monophysites: Christians in Middle East who disagreed over interpretation of trinity with both Catholics and Arians.

Moguls: Dynasty that ruled most of India from 1526 to early part of 18th century.

Mycenae: Civilisation on southern mainland of Greece about 1500 BC.

Narodniks: Literally ‘populists’. Russian revolutionaries prior to 1917 who looked towards peasants rather than workers.

National Guards: Volunteer forces recruited from middle class in France in early 1790s and in 19th century Europe, transformed into working class force during siege of Paris in 1870-71.

National Liberals: Big business backed section of German former liberals who backed imperialist regime after 1871. Became People’s Party after revolution of 1918.

Neolithic: Literally ‘new Stone Age’, involves use of sophisticated stone and wooden tools, and pottery.

Neolithic revolution: Introduction of new way of life based on these tools, involving living in large villages and simple agriculture.

NEP (New Economic Policy): Market mechanisms in Russia between 1921 and 1928.

Nestorian: Version of Christianity banned by Roman and Byzantium churches. Influential in medieval central Asia and China.

New Kingdom: Egypt from 1550 to 1075 BC.

New Model Army: Reorganised parliamentary forces that defeated royalists in English Civil War and then carried through English Revolution of 1649.

Noblesse d’epée: Traditional French nobility.

Noblesse de robe: Section of French nobility whose wealth came from hereditary control of parts of legal system – originally recruited by monarchs from well-to-do middle class.

Norsemen: People from Scandinavia who raided western and Mediterranean Europe in 9th and 10th centuries AD, before settling in England, Scotland, Ireland, Iceland, Russia, Normandy and Sicily. Also known as ‘Vikings’.

Old Kingdom: First civilisation in Egypt from 3000 to about 2100 BC.

Oligarchy: Ancient Greek term meaning ‘rule by a few’.

Olmecs: First civilisation to arise in Mexico and Guatemala, in last millennium BC.

Orange: Originally family name of Dutch princes, used since 18th century to describe Protestant haters of Catholics and supporters of British rule in Ireland.

Ottomans: Leaders of a Turkic people who conquered Asia Minor from both Islamic empires and Byzantium in late medieval period, before expanding right across north Africa, Middle East and Balkans.

Parlements: Term used in pre-revolutionary France for certain important courts.

Passive citizens: Those without vote under property franchise in France 1790-92.

Pastoralists: Societies based on herding of cattle, sheep, camels or llamas.

Patriarchy: Term for society structured around households under the domination of the most senior males, who tell other males, women and servants what to do. Misused by many feminists to apply to all societies with women’s oppression.

Patricians: Hereditary ruling elite in early period of Roman republic.

Petty bourgeoisie (or petite bourgeoisie): Literally ‘little bourgeoisie’. Referred originally to small shopkeepers, tradespeople, small capitalist farmers and so on. Extended to include professions and middle management grades among white collar employees.

Phonograph: Precursor of gramophone and record player.

Platonism: View which holds material world is simply imperfect reflection of ideal concepts.

Plebeians: Ordinary citizens of early Roman Republic, owning small amounts of land. Used in later times to describe poorer section of urban population, or simply those of lower class upbringing.

Popular Front: Russian Stalinist-inspired attempt to create coalitions of workers’ parties and ‘progressive bourgeoisie’ in 1930s and after.

Presbyterians: Name given to Scottish Calvinist Protestants, also applied to those on parliamentary side in English Civil War who wanted to do deal with royalists.

Proletarians: Originally inhabitants of ancient Rome who owned no property at all. In modern times, term used by Marx to describe wage workers.

Provisional government: Non-elected government running Russia between February and October 1917.

Putting-out: System by which merchants would provide self-employed craftspeople with raw materials and tools in return for control over their produce, enabling merchants to make profits from production. Step on way to full blown industrial capitalism.

Pythagoreanism: Named after early mathematician of ancient Greece, sees numbers and mathematical formulae as having magical qualities.

Quakers: Originally revolutionary sect at time of English Revolution, later became pacifist Christians. A few became very rich and dominated American colony of Pennsylvania.

Radical Party: Main party of French middle class in pre Second World War France.

Restoration: Term used in Britain in 1660 and in Europe in 1814-15 to describe restoration of monarchy after revolutionary period.

SA: German Nazi Stormtrooper paramilitary organisation.

Sahib: Indian word meaning ‘sir’, used to describe British colonists.

Samurai: Privileged knightly layer in Japan before 1860s.

Sans culottes: Poorer section of French population at time of French Revolution, mainly artisans and families, but some workers.

Second serfdom: Reimposition of serfdom in eastern Europe from 16th century onwards, used to provide grain which nobles would sell in west European markets.

Sections: Term used to describe regular mass meetings of people in each part of Paris during French Revolution.

Semitic: Name for a family of languages originating in the Middle East, including Hebrew, Arabic and Aramaic. Often applied to peoples originating in the region, especially Jews. Hence also ‘anti-Semitic’.

Serfs: Peasants who are half free, working some of the land on their own behalf but compelled to provide either unpaid labour, goods-in-kind or money payments to a lord whose land they are not allowed to leave.

Seven Years War: War in mid-1750s between France and Britain over domination of North America and Atlantic trade. Resulted in Britain getting control of Canada and first colonisation of India.

Shang: Earliest dynasty to rule an empire in China, around 1600 BC.

Shi’ites: Followers of main minority version of Islam, the majority in Iran, southern Iraq and parts of Lebanon today

Sikhism: North Indian religion, founded in 16th century in opposition to caste system and in effort to unify Hinduism and Islam.

Social Revolutionary Party: Russian party in first quarter of century that claimed to base itself on peasants, in practice led by lawyers.

Society of Jesus: See Jesuits.

Soviet: Literally Russian for ‘council’. Used in 1905 and 1917 to refer to workers’ and soldiers’ councils. Later used as short-cut expression for regime in Russia.

Soviet Union (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics): Name adopted by republics of former Russian Empire in 1924 and then for Stalinist Empire, dissolved in 1991.

Spartakusbund: Literally Spartacus League, German revolutionary group during First World War.

SPD: Social Democratic Party of Germany.

SRs: Members of Social Revolutionary Party in Russia

SS: Originally Hitler’s personal guard, developed into military core of Nazi regime, responsible for death camps.

Stalinism: Support for Stalin’s doctrines and methods. More generally term for state capitalist form of organisation existing in Russia and other Eastern bloc states until 1989-91.

Sudras: Indian caste associated with toiling on the land. In ancient four-caste system below priests, warriors and cultivators, but above ‘out-castes’.

Sung: Dynasty ruling all of China from AD 960 to 1127, and then southern China until 1279.

Sunnis: Majority version of Islam

T’ai-p’ing: Rebellion in mid-19th century China.

T’ang: Dynasty ruling China from AD 618 to 907.

Tainos: Columbus’s name for first indigenous people he came across in Caribbean.

Taoism: Popular religious ideology in China through much of last 2,500 years. Associated with various magical beliefs, but also could encourage practical experimentation.

Tariffs: Taxes applied to imports into a country.

Tax farmers: Name given to rich contractors who bought right to collect taxes for state in ancient Rome, Abbasid Empire, Byzantium and pre-revolutionary France, among other places.

Thermidor: Term used for counter-revolutionary coup against Jacobins in France in summer of 1794, based on revolution’s name for month in which it occurred, used since (e.g. in Russia) to describe beginnings of counter-revolution.

Third period: Stalin’s policy of Communist parties treating socialist parties and trade unions as ‘social fascists’.

Tithes: Sort of tax paid by peasants and artisans to church, which often passed into pockets of nobles.

Tokugawa: Name of feudal family who dominated Japan from early 17th century until 1860s, often used to describe that whole period of Japanese feudalism

Tories: Originally sympathisers with Stuart monarchy in late 17th century and early 18th century Britain, then one of two ruling class parties. Term used in America to describe royalists during War of Independence. Today means supporters of Conservative Party

Tribute: Sum of money levied from people of a conquered country.

UGT: Socialist Party influenced trade union organisation in Spain.

Ultraquists: Religious denomination based on Hussite principles in Bohemia. Did not grant priest any special position in mass.

Ultras: Term sometimes used to mean out-and-out reactionaries, not to be confused with ‘ultra-left’.

Umayyads: Dynasty that ruled Islamic Empire in Middle East from mid-7th to mid-8th centuries.

Unionists: Supporters of British rule over Ireland

United Front: Tactic of defensive alliances between revolutionary and non-revolutionary workers’ parties and unions, formulated by Lenin and Trotsky in 1920-21.

Urban revolution: Term for transformation of society that involved rise of classes, state, towns, and often metallurgy and literacy.

USSR: See Soviet Union.

Utopian Socialism: Set of doctrines in early 19th century that society needs to be organised along planned, cooperative lines, but that this can be done without revolution, by finding a benevolent ruler or by forming cooperative communities – associated in France with Comte de Saint-Simon and Charles Fourier, in Britain with Robert Owen.

Vedic: Ancestor of present day Hindu religion, involved sacrifice of cattle.

Vendée: Region in west of France where royalist revolt against revolution occurred in 1792.

Viceroy: Governor of colonised country enjoying near-kingly (absolute) powers.

Vietnam syndrome: US ruling class fear after mid-1970s of getting involved in a war it could not win.

Villeins: Medieval serfs.

Whig: Forerunner of Liberal Party Party originally associated with constitutional settlement in Britain in 1688. In early 19th century came to identify with industrial as opposed to landed section of ruling class. Also used of view of English history which sees everything as perfect evolution to liberal present.

Workhouse: Building where unemployed and poor were compelled to work in return for food and shelter.

Zamindars: Class of local notables who lived off share of land taxes in Mogul India, transformed into modern landowning class after British conquest.

Zapotecs: People in southern Mexico who established Monte Alban civilisation after AD 500.

Zoroastrianism: Religion of Iran before rise of Islam. Involves belief in eternal struggle between good and evil. Survives today among small Parsee communities in Indian subcontinent.


Last updated on 26 January 2010