25 Interesting Facts About the History of Political Science

20 Oct, 2011  |  Written by  |  under Politics

Those studying for a degree in political science will learn about many people and events that shape our world and will continue to. But with all the past kings, presidents, prime ministers, and private citizens all having impacts of varying degrees, it can be confusing to put them all into context. And there are many lesser known moments, as well as the world changing ones, that can get lost in the shuffle.

For those looking for a career in political science or even those who have a passing interest, we have attempted to make sense of them all by sorting them into 25 interesting facts about the history of political science listed by date. They include some great achievements both locally and worldwide on when political science goes right, and occasionally, wrong.

Interesting Facts About the History of American Political Science

  1. United States Declares Independence From England
    We all know that the Declaration of Independence was signed on July 4, 1776, but there are many unknown facts surrounding the event. For example, the 13 colonies agreed on independence from England but little else. How to rule this new country, defend it, and much more were all hot points of contention that nearly brought the union to an end before it began. The blogger at Legal History even has more on a little known spy during revolutionary times.
  2. We Have a Constitution
    In 1789, a political science document unlike any other that has come before or since it was passed. Full of checks and balances, the Constitution of the United States sought to divide the government into three branches, with each branch having its own special rules for elections and powers assigned to it. There are tons of blogs just like About Our Constitution that have everything you could want to know about it just a click away.
  3. The Louisiana Purchase
    How do you get a bunch of land without spilling a drop of blood? In another interesting political science fact, one of the most significant achievements in peace was the Louisiana Purchase of 1803. Due to his war in France, Napoleon Bonaparte was forced to sell his massive holdings in the new colonies to the already budding American colonies for the clearing house price of $15 million, which translates to $215 million in today’s dollars, or half what it cost the taxpayers to watch Solyndra go down in bankruptcy. The deal was bartered by then President Thomas Jefferson and Merriwether Lewis.
  4. Emancipation Proclamation
    Unlike the above, this was one victory that could not be bought with money. During the days of the Civil War, the battle between the Northern and Southern states was still waging, costing thousands of lives and crippling both economies. In a move designed to weaken the other side, President Lincoln issued the proclamation on September 22, 1862 with the goal of hurting the South’s ability to fight and work. Interesting political fact about the proclamation: slaves in states that remained loyal to the North, such as Delaware and Kentucky, were not freed by the proclamation. It wouldn’t be until the war ended and the 13th Amendment to the Constitution was passed that slavery became illegal everywhere.
  5. Women’s Vote
    Soon the entire country will be casting their vote in the next presidential election, but it won’t even be 100 years since we were all able to do so. Over 100 years after it was founded, women were still denied the right to vote at the federal level by the government despite mass protests. It wasn’t until Congress voted on the measure in 1920 which granted the “right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.” In another interesting political fact, the vote was so close it all came down to a critical juncture in the Tennessee capitol. In a second interesting fact: the U.S. was not the first nation to grant women the right to vote.
  6. Two’s the Limit
    As recent events have shown us, when a ruler is in power for decades, nothing short of a civil protest can unseat him. However, during the FDR administration, this almost came to pass. After his successive four term stint as president from 1933 to 1945, the 22nd amendment to the Constitution was quickly passed which banned any future presidents from serving for more than two terms. The folks at the International Debate Education Association have more on the pro’s and con’s to this political science fact.
  7. First Political Debate
    When did political science become such a dog and pony show? It was probably long before the United States was ever conceived but one of the landmarks could certainly be September 26, 1960 or when the first televised presidential debate was held. Watch as then Senator John F. Kennedy takes on incumbent President Nixon who actually turns down opportunities to refute points made by the opposition.
  8. Civil Rights Act of 1964
    Although it had been one hundred years since the Civil War, there was still massive unrest in the Southern part of the United States. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was one of several in an attempt to help African Americans achieve the same success as their white counterparts. Tom Woods has more interesting political science facts on the act and the fall out on his blog.

Interesting Facts About the History of World Political Science

  1. Emperor Constantine Converts to Christianity
    The subject of books and films alike, the conversion of this Roman emperor is one of the most interesting facts in political history. A few hundred years after the coming of Christ, his followers were still present in Rome and growing in numbers. The Romans widely took to persecution, which included live executions. It wasn’t until 313 AD that Emperor Constantine issued the Edict of Man, which commanded the official toleration of Christianity and other religions. He would also convert to the religion himself.
  2. Magna Carta is Signed
    In 1215, what many consider to be the predecessor to the U.S. Constitution was signed in Great Britain. The Magna Carta included many principles we hold dear, such as “no free man shall be seized or imprisoned…except by the lawful judgment of his equals or by the law of the land.” The blogger at Constitutional Law Prof even has the original text for the viewing.
  3. Parliament is Born
    During the rule of Henry III, the nobles mounted a rebellion and arranged the first ever meeting of Parliament in 1265. Their purpose was to “suggest laws, give advice, and approve tax bills.” This new branch would have ultimate say on whether or not taxes were levied. It would later evolve into the power it is known as now, making it an interesting moment in political science history.
  4. Martin Luther’s 95 Theses
    Up until the 1500’s, the Christian church was one church: the Catholic church. It wasn’t until Martin Luther questioned the doctrine of the church by outlining 95 questions he felt the church wasn’t answering properly. His original intentions were to just get better answers, but the results involved the separation into two churches and then many, many sects of Christianity after that. You can read all 95 theses in this blog.
  5. First Prime Minister
    The political power in England didn’t shift from the crown to the people overnight, but this was a key step. In 1721, Sir Robert Walpole became the first Lord of the Treasury and would be officially recognized as the first prime minister. He took on many of the responsibilities that the current one does. An interesting fact was that it was suspected he held the position for so long through the influence of bribes.
  6. The Treaty of Versailles
    Up until this point, World War I was referred to as The Great War. Over eight million were killed in the war between Germany and its allies, who fought against France, England, the United States, and other allies. The war left Germany devastated and it was this treaty that finally settled the war. Almost thirty years after the first World War began, the treaty would ultimately lead to:
  7. Hitler Invades Poland
    Years earlier, the head of Germany had assured the world his intentions were peaceful and in Germany’s best interests. He would even strike a peace deal with neighboring Soviets. On September 1, 1939, Hitler would invade Poland igniting what would be the worst war in human history and would ultimately lead to mass genocide and racial cleansing.
  8. Fall of the Berlin Wall
    After World War II, the unsteady peace the Allies had managed in the face of a common enemy was threatened when it came time to divide Germany. One side decided to rule in freedom and the other in communism, and a great wall was erected in Berlin, dividing the city in two in 1961. It wasn’t until 28 years later that the wall finally came down and a peace between the United States and Soviet Union was reached, but the avoidance of yet another World War was an interesting moment in history.

Other Interesting Facts About the History of Political Science

  1. Plato Writes The Republic
    One of Greece’s greatest philosophers was also one of the first to take on political science. Published in 380 BC, the collection of books outlines the definition of city-states and how man should govern. The philosopher king as ruler is one of its most interesting aspects. You can find all ten mini-books here.
  2. Pax Romana
    So is man’s ultimate goal to be constantly involved with wars? Not if you check out this period in political science history. Literally meaning “Roman Peace,” it lasted from 27 BC to 180 AD and in an empire that was widely known for engaging in war and other violent past times. During this peaceful period, there was not only peace but prosperity, advancements in science, culture, law, and much more.
  3. Leonardo da Vinci Paints The Last Supper
    The now infamous painting features Jesus and all of his disciples eating dinner the night before he is sentenced to death. The painting was done in 1498 as part of the maestro’s work for Ludovico il Moro and for the Dominican Monastery Santa Maria delle Grazie. This was an important moment in political history because it marked the first work of The Renaissance, which would reignite man’s desire to learn and grow.
  4. Off With Their Head
    A leader nowadays can think that impeachment and/or public disgrace is the worst thing that can happen to them. However, that is not the case as shown in this interesting moment in political science. It came in 1649 when King Charles was executed for being a “tyrant, traitor, and murderer.” An interesting fact surrounding the case was that the man who signed the death warrant would later see his family rise to power as a result.
  5. Some Punishment
    In 1788, Britain was desperate for a new place to send its prisoners since the Americans were no longer accepting. In a desperate move, they sent about one thousand people, most of them convicts, to the Australian territory in the hopes of letting Britain grow without its prison population. However, the new settlement would prove to be more prosperous than its founders ever thought. Once free settlers began to arrive, the country began to grow and thrive, marking an interesting time in political science history.
  6. Abraham Lincoln Suspends Habeas Corpus
    Along with a declaring martial law, President Abraham Lincoln ordered the suspension of habeas corpus in 1861 in an effort to bring the already bloody Civil War to an end. After the courts refused to comply with Lincoln’s order, he officially released a proclamation on September 24, 1862 declaring that rebels and those who help them “shall be subject to martial law and liable to trial and punishment by Courts Martial or Military Commission.” Robert Longley of About.com has more on this interesting political science fact.
  7. New Zealand Leads in Women’s Rights
    Long before the U.S. or England allowed their women to vote, the Republic of New Zealand was paving the way. In 1893, Lord Glasgow signed a new Electoral Act allowing all women to vote in parliamentary elections. Through the work and massive petitioning of women like Kate Sheppard, the act was able to be passed 27 years before it was in the United States.
  8. Gandhi Mainstreams Nonviolence
    While the British ruled India, there were many who wanted to put them out through means of force. This all changed on September 11, 1906 when Mohandas Gandhi addressed a meeting of 3,000 Indians in the Empire Theatre building in Johannesburg and asked them to take an oath to resist white colonial rule without violence. It would ultimately lead to nonviolence being the means through which Indian independence was achieved.
  9. We Will Fight Them on the Beaches
    These famous words were spoken by then Prime Minister Winston Churchill of England during the days of World War II. It is an interesting time in political science because it was one of the first times a people was addressed on the radio during a war and were inspired to fight back not only on their own shores, but across the globe. It all happened on June 4, 1940.

And the above 25 interesting facts about the history of political science are just some of the few moments that have shaped our nations and our world. Be sure and research your favorites more, as each fact contains tons of other facts leading to and surrounding them that are worth knowing.