A capital or capital city is the holding primary status in a , , , , or other , usually as its seat of the government. A capital is typically a that physically encompasses the government's offices and meeting places; the status as capital is often designated by its law or . In some s, including several countries, different branches of government are in different settlements. In some cases, a distinction is made between the official (al) capital and the seat of government, which is . News media, in English, often use the name of a capital city as an alternative name for the government of the country of which it is the capital, as a form of . For example, "relations between and " refer to "".


The word ''capital'' derives from the ''caput'' (genitive ''capitis''), meaning ''. In several English-speaking states, the terms and are also used in subdivisions. In some s, subnational capitals may be known as 'administrative centres'. The capital is often the of its constituent, though not always.


Historically, the major economic centre of a state or region has often become the focal point of political power, and became a capital through or . (The modern capital city has, however, not always existed: in medieval Western Europe, an was common.) Examples are , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , and . The capital city naturally attracts politically motivated people and those whose skills are needed for efficient of national or imperial governments, such as s, s, s, s, and s. Some of these cities are or were also , e.g. (more than one religion), Rome (the ), (more than one religion), Babylon, Moscow (the ), Belgrade (the ), Paris, and Beijing. The convergence of political and economic or cultural power is by no means universal. Traditional capitals may be economically eclipsed by provincial rivals, e.g. by , by , and numerous . The of a dynasty or culture could also mean the extinction of its capital city, as occurred at Babylon and . Although many capitals are defined by constitution or legislation, many long-time capitals have no legal designation as such, including , , , , , and . They are recognized as capitals as a matter of convention, and because all or almost all the country's central political institutions, such as government departments, supreme court, legislature, embassies, etc., are located in or near them.

Modern capitals

in the have historic county towns, which are often not the largest settlement within the county and often are no longer administrative centers, as many historical counties are now only ceremonial, and administrative boundaries are different. The number of new capitals in the world increased substantially since the period and especially with the founding of independent nation-states since the eighteenth century. In , there is a , while the ten and three each have capital cities. The states of such countries as , (including the famous cities of and , capitals of their respective states), and also each have capital cities. For example, the six state capitals of Australia are , , , , , and . In Australia, the term "capital cities" is regularly used to refer to those six state capitals plus the federal capital , and , the capital of the . is the capital city of the and also of the overall. In unitary states which consist of multiple constituent nations, such as the and the , each will usually have its own capital city. Unlike in s, there is usually not a separate national capital, but rather the capital city of one constituent nation will also be the capital of the state overall, such as , which is the capital of and of the United Kingdom. Similarly, each of the and has a capital city, such as and , while is the capital of the and of the as a whole and is the capital of and of the region of . In the , each of its constituent s (or , plural of ''Land'') has its own capital city, such as , , , , , and , as do all of the republics of the . The national capitals of Germany and Russia (the of and the of ) are also constituent states of both countries in their own right. Each of the and also have their own capital cities. , the national capital of , is also one of the states, while is the (''de facto'') capital of both and of the . The majority of national capitals are also the largest city in their respective countries, but in some countries this is not the case.

Planned capitals

Governing entities sometimes plan, design and build new capital cities to house the seat of government of a or of a subdivision. Deliberately include: * , Nigeria (1991) * , , India (2016) * , Sergipe, Brazil (1855) * , Turkey (1923) * , , US (1839) * , Belize (1970) * , Minas Gerais, Brazil (1897) * , Brazil (1960) * , , India (1948) * , , (1948) * , Australia (1927) * , Punjab and Haryana, India (1966) * , Roman Empire (324–330) * , Kentucky, US (1792) * , (1964) * , Gujarat, India (1960) * , Goiás, Brazil (1933) * , Indiana, USA (1825) * , (1960) * , Missouri, US (1821) * , , (1882) * or , , India (2003) * , Burma (2005–2006) * , (1911) * , Kazakhstan (1997) * , Oklahoma, US (1889) * , , Canada (1857) * , Brazil (1989) * Part of and , , Indonesia (2019) * , Philippines (1948–76) * , North Carolina, US (1792) * , Ilkhanate Persia (1306–1335) * , Malta (1571) * , US (1800) These cities satisfy one or both of the following criteria: # A deliberately that was built expressly to house the , superseding a capital city that was in an established . There have been various reasons for this, including overcrowding in that major metropolitan area, and the desire to place the capital city in a location with a better climate (usually a less tropical one). # A town that was chosen as a compromise among two or more cities (or other political divisions), none of which was willing to concede to the the privilege of being the capital city. Usually, the new capital is geographically located roughly equidistant between the competing population centres.

Compromise locations

Some examples of the second situation (compromise locations) are: * , Australia, chosen as a compromise located between Melbourne and Sydney. * , United States, founded as a compromise between more urbanized and agrarian "" to share national power. The , resulted in the passage of the , which approved the creation of a national capital on the on land ceded from and . * , Kentucky, midway between and , Kentucky. * , Ontario, Canada, located along the boundary between the provinces of and – the two most populous of the ten provinces. * , , chosen as the midpoint between and , Florida – then the two largest cities in Florida. * became the in 1865. It lies at the southern tip of the of New Zealand, the smaller of New Zealand's two main islands (which subsequently became the more populous island) immediately across from the . The previous capital, , lies much further north in the North Island; the move followed a long argument for a more central location for parliament. * , Nicaragua, chosen to appease rivals in and , which also were associated with the liberal and conservative political factions respectively * , was selected as the state capital in 1821, the year after Missouri was admitted to the Union, due to its central location within the state. It is almost halfway between Missouri's two largest cities, in the west and in the east, although Kansas City was not incorporated until 1850. Changes in a nation's political regime sometimes result in the designation of a new capital. (from 1998 Astana and from March 2019 Nur-Sultan) became the capital of in 1997, following the in 1991. was founded in 's interior as the former capital, , was claimed to be overcrowded.

Unusual capital city arrangements

A few nation-states have multiple capitals, and there are also several states that have no capital. Some have a city as the capital but with most government agencies elsewhere. There is also a which is currently the ' capital of a territory: in . * (): since the establishment of local autonomy in 1976, the Azores has three designated regional capital cities: at (seat of the ); at (seat of the ); and at (seat of the judiciary and the historical capital of the Azores, in addition to being the seat of the ). * : was designated the national capital in 1971, but most government offices and embassies are still located in . * (): Until 1927 the capital of the was . When the Canary Islands became an autonomous community in 1982, Santa Cruz de Tenerife and were both given capital status. en wikisource''Real Decreto de 30 de noviembre de 1833''
en el sitio web oficial del Gobierno de Canarias
There is currently a balance of institutions between the two capitals; the Canary Islands is the only autonomous community in Spain which has two capitals. * : is the capital even though the meets in . * : is the sole capital. is home to all three of the country's highest s, making it the ''de facto'' capital of the . * : the and the are located in . * : During the summer, the resides at the in ; presidential sessions of the government are held there as well. * : The French constitution does not recognize any capital city in France. By law is the seat of both houses of Parliament (the and the ), but their joint congresses are held at the . In case of emergency, the seat of the constitutional powers can be transferred to another town, in order for the Houses of Parliament to sit in the same location as the and . * : The official capital is home to the parliament and the highest bodies of the executive branch (consisting of the ceremonial and effective ). Various ministries are located in the former capital of , which now has the title "". The has its seat in which, as a consequence, is sometimes called Germany's "judicial capital"; none of Germany's highest judicial organs are located in Berlin. Various German government agencies are located in other parts of Germany. * : ** : is the ''de jure'' capital of the state until by 2024, while is the ''de facto'' seat of government. The Governor of Andhra Pradesh has his official residence in ** : is the administrative and legislative capital, while the high court (judiciary capital) is located in . The proposed future capital is . ** : serves as the summer capital of the state while is the winter capital. The entire state machinery from one city to another every six months. ** : is the administrative and legislative capital of the state, while the high court is located in . ** : is the primary capital city. , which is also the headquarters of the , is the second winter capital of the state. ** : is the administrative and legislative capital of the state, while the high court is located in . ** and : Both states share as their capital city. The city itself is administered as a . ** : is the administrative and legislative capital of the state, while the high court is located in . ** : is the administrative and legislative capital of the state, while the high court is located in . ** : is the administrative and legislative capital, while the high court is located in . The proposed future capital is . ** : and serve as joint capitals of the Union Territory. * : remains as the capital and seat of the government's branches, but many government agencies have moved to . * : is the capital, home of the , and seat of , but the federal administrative centre and judiciary have been moved south to . * : The official capital is home to the parliament and the executive, but the seat of the is in the former royal capital of . * (): was designated the national capital in 2005, the same year it was founded, but most government offices and embassies are still located in (). * : Nauru, a of only , has no distinct capital city, but has a capital district instead. * : is a modern purpose-built capital city. Its construction started in 1960 and was completed in 1966. The capital was first shifted temporarily from to in 1960, and then to Islamabad when essential development work was completed. It was built as a forward capital for strategic and economic reasons. *: Presidential Decree No. 940, issued on 24 June 1976, designates the whole of (NCR) or the metropolitan area of as the seat of government, with the as the capital. National government institutions are scattered within the metropolis instead of being concentrated within the capital city. The presidential palace () and the Supreme Court are located within the capital city but the two houses of Congress are located in separate suburbs. * : The has no reference to a capital. Although is home to the , the 's and the 's official residences, all the 's departments, all the and the highest courts, no Portuguese official document states that Lisbon is the national capital. * : is designated the administrative capital and the location of the parliament, while the former capital, , is now designated as the "commercial capital". However, many government offices are still located in Colombo. Both cities are in the . * : The administrative capital is , the legislative capital is , and the judicial capital is . This is the outcome of the compromise that created the in 1910. * : is the ' of Switzerland and functions as ''de facto'' capital. However, the is located in which is also the . * : was designated the national capital in 1996, but most government offices and embassies are still located in . * : ** : The executive and legislative branches and most government agencies are based in but the is headquartered in . ** : has the seats of the branches of government and serves as the official capital. However various Illinois government officials primarily reside in or are primarily active in .Reeder, Scott.
What does it cost taxpayers to pay for lawmakers' empty Springfield residences?

. ''Illinois News Network''. 11 September 2014. Retrieved 26 May 2016.
Gauen, Pat.

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(see: for a further explanation) ** : The executive and legislative branches and most government agencies are based in , but the is located in . ** : Much like Illinois, the state capital and government are headquartered in , but many officials are mostly active in or live in . * , , and the are s, and thus do not contain any distinct capital city as a whole. However, in Singapore's case, the main judiciary and legislative offices are located in the . Similarly, while was the capital of colonial Hong Kong, the district of serves as the seat of government offices today.

Capitals that are not the seat of government

There are several countries where, for various reasons, the official capital and de facto are separated: * : is the official capital, but is the seat of government. * : is the al capital, and the is located in Sucre, making it the judicial capital. The ', the and are located in , making it the seat of government. * : was designated the national capital in 1983, but most government offices and embassies are still located in . * : is the constitutional national capital even though the , the , the , the , and the of the are all located in , as are all the . (''For more details see: ''.) Some historical examples of similar arrangements, where the recognized capital was not the official seat of government: * : The traditional capital was the , while , outside of the boundaries of the City of London, was the seat of government. They are both today part of the urban core of . * : The traditional capital was , though from 1682 to 1789 the seat of government was at the , located in a rural area southwest of Paris.

Disputed capitals

* and : Both the and the claim as their capital. Jerusalem serves as Israel's capital, with the presidential residence, government offices, supreme court and parliament () located there, while the Palestinian Authority has no ''de facto'' or ''de jure'' control over any of Jerusalem. Many countries, with the notable exception of the United States, which recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, take is unsettled pending future . Most countries maintain their in , while are in various places such as , , and .

Capital as symbol

With the rise of the modern , the capital city has become a for the and its , and imbued with political meaning. Unlike capitals, which were declared wherever a held his or her court, the selection, relocation, founding, or capture of a modern capital city is a highly symbolic event. For example: * The ruined and almost uninhabited was made capital of in 1834, four years after the country gained its independence, with the notion of reviving the glory of . Similarly, following the and , is now once again the capital of Germany. Other restored capital cities include after the . * A symbolic relocation of a capital city to a geographically or demographically peripheral location may be for either or reasons (sometimes known as a forward capital or spearhead capital). moved his government from to to give the a an orientation. The economically significant city of became the first capital of , when Athens was an unimportant village. The emperors moved their capital to from the more central to help supervise the border with the Mongols. During the 1857 rebellion, considered their capital, and was proclaimed emperor, but the ruling had their capital in . In 1877, the British formally held a '' in Delhi, proclaiming as ''. Delhi finally became the colonial capital after the of King-Emperor in 1911, continuing as independent India's capital from 1947. Other examples include , , , , , and . * The selection or founding of a "neutral" capital city, one unencumbered by regional or political identities, was meant to represent the unity of a new state when , , , , and became capital cities. Sometimes, the location of a new capital city was chosen to terminate squabbling or possible squabbling between various entities, such as in the cases of Canberra, Ottawa, Washington, Wellington and Managua. * The British-built town of represented a simultaneous break and continuity with the past, the location of Delhi being where many imperial capitals were built (Indraprastha, Dhillika, and Shahjahanabad) but the actual capital being the new British-built town designed by . Wellington, on the southwestern tip of the , replaced the much more northerly city of to place the national capital close to the and hence to placate its residents, many of whom had sympathies with separatism. * During the , tremendous resources were expended to defend Washington, D.C., which bordered on the (with the ), from Confederate attack even though the relatively small federal government could easily have been moved elsewhere. Likewise, great resources were expended by the Confederacy in defending the Confederate capital from attack by the Union, in its exposed location of , Virginia, barely south of Washington, D.C.

Capitals in military strategy

The capital city is usually but not always a primary target in a war, as capturing it usually guarantees capture of much of the enemy government, victory for the attacking forces, or at the very least demoralization for the defeated forces. In , where governments were massive centralized bureaucracies with little flexibility on the provincial level, a could easily be toppled with the fall of its capital. In the period, both and fell when their respective capitals of and fell. The relocated its capital from to , where they could more effectively control the generals and troops guarding the borders from and . The Ming was destroyed when took their seat of power, and this pattern repeats itself in Chinese history, until the fall of the traditional monarchy in the 20th century. After the 's collapse, decentralization of authority and improved transportation and communication technologies allowed both the and to rapidly relocate capitals and keep their leadership structures intact during the great crisis of . National capitals were arguably less important as military objectives in other parts of the world, including the West, because of socioeconomic trends toward localized authority, a strategic modus operandi especially popular after the development of and reaffirmed by the development of democratic and capitalistic philosophies. In 1204, after the Latin captured the capital, , Byzantine forces were able to regroup in several provinces; provincial noblemen managed to reconquer the capital after 60 years and preserve the empire for another 200 years after that. The forces sacked various capitals repeatedly during the and , but American forces could still carry on fighting from the countryside, where they enjoyed support from local governments and the traditionally independent civilian frontiersmen. Exceptions to these generalizations include highly centralized states such as , whose centralized bureaucracies could effectively coordinate far-flung resources, giving the state a powerful advantage over less coherent rivals, but risking utter ruin if the capital were taken.

See also

* * * *

Further reading

* , "Capitals in Modern History: Inventing Urban Spaces for the Nation", in ''Berlin – Washington, 1800–2000: Capital Cities, Cultural Representation, and National Identities'', ed. Andreas Daum and Christof Mauch. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2006, pp. 3–28. * ''Capital Cities: International Perspectives – Les capitales: Perspectives internationales'', ed. John Taylor, Jean G. Lengellé and Caroline Andrew. Ottawa: Carleton University Press, 1993, .


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