Regnal chronology is, specifically, the study of king lists, sequences of governance in the history of a state, and the organizing of such data. Bruce R. Gordon extended the idea to intrude upon political geography as well, giving a representation of political eras within certain geographic regions. I have also included information culled from traditional and mythological eras - clearly labelled as such - to provide a foundation and context for what particular cultures regard as heir roots. This study, therefore, inhabits a frontier region located somewhere near the intersection of political science, history, archeology, and geography - with a sprinkling of heraldry, genealogy, numismatics, epigraphy, and religion mixed in.NB: Bruce's original link to Kaul's article, "The Anthropologist as Barman and Tour-guide: Reflections on Fieldwork in a Touristed Destination" is no longer at http://www.dur.ac.uk/anthropology.journal/vol12/iss1/kaul/kaul.html, appears to be gone. The current link is at the Internet Archive and should be safe.
The notion here is the framework around which much of history is built: names, dates, tabular data, all the dismally boring aspects of history that most people remember from their school-days, with sorrow. Bruce was sensitive to the issue and, while he personally did not think of this kind of information as dull, he recognized that many people will. He therefore tried to inject into the tables some explanatory notes and a few human-interest stories here and there, in order to provide some context for the information and also to make it a bit more interesting than the equivalent of reading a phone book. He did feel, though, that the material is important: not only does it provide a specific record of historical periods within geographic regions, but it provides the basis to which real history is to be examined - the floor upon which historians need to walk.
The EveryCountry.io group agreed and after Bruce's passing brought the site back to life to continue educating future users.
The documents herein must not be considered final in most instances; Bruce's research into this subject continued as he refined previous documentation and discovered new sources. Quite apart from which, there are numerous regions which aren't linked, because he wasn't able to build those pages yet. So, if you are interested in a particular area, and the information is sparse or lacking, well, keep looking, maybe we will get there eventually...
If you see anything which you feel is erroneous, please email the webmaster. We ask only that you provide documentation for whatever you wish to have changed. We are amateur historians (or chroniclers, really), and our access to primary source material is correspondingly more limited than if we were acknowledged authorities in the field. Nevertheless, our basic goals here are accuracy and completeness, in that order.
GO TO THE GENERAL INDEX
This is one of the thorniest issues in comparative chronology. A moments reflection will make it clear that a person's name is not nearly so obvious and clear an object as might be assumed at first glance. Languages shift and change and dialects raise their heads. A common name in one speech may be transliterated into a neighboring language, often with surprising results. A person, especially a King, may be known by several different names depending on circumstances; some, he might not recognize at all.
Consider the case of King John of England (1199-1216). Modern American usage would call him "John Plantagenet", and an historian would perhaps say "John Lackland". But John himself would not recognize Plantagenet as a family name and, not speaking modern American English, would not have called himself "John". He and his contemporaries spoke a sort of Norman French, and anyone sufficiently intimate with him to forego a courteous "Sire" would have used a word that probably sounded a lot like "Jehan". Ecclesiatics, using Latin, would have said "Iohannes". No-one in their right mind would have called him "Lackland", at least to his face. Contemporary Anglo-Saxons would probably say something like "Jon", pronounced "Yan", when they could restrain themselves from profanity.
What's a poor chronicler to do? One has the choice of utilizing the vernacular wherever possible, or sticking to an arbitrary standard. When Bruce began this project, he chose the latter course, since he wanted these pages to be as understandable and readable as possible. But later on, he began moving in the direction of vernacular. It is a slow process to convert all the names herein to the local language, particularly when the local language may not be particularly evident. So, for the time being, readers should be aware that a rather disconcerting amalgam of linguistic standards may be present in particular files, though we will undertake to keep any potential confusion to a minimum. The standard to which we will try to approach will be to record a ruler's name in whatever was his or her base language, if we can determine it, or the dominant language of the region, if nothing else will do. We urge any readers who are more knowledgeable on the subject than us to contact us if they spot errors.
A related problem is that of enumeration. A casual perusal of many of these lists will tend one to the conclusion that we cannot sequence simple whole numbers. As an example, the last Edward to be King of England/Great Britain called himself Edward VIII. But a glance at the list reveals, not 8, but 11 different Edwards. The current King of Sweden is Charles XVI; examination of his predecessors will provide a certain sense of disorientation when the first Charles encountered is styled Charles VII. What needs to be noted is that the Latin numerals often tagged to royal names bear only a tangential relation to an accurate count; they are political numbers, not mathematical ones. The English sequence commences in 1066, not the beginnings of the Kingdom. In Sweden, the six missing Charles may be discovered inhabiting a genealogy produced in the late middle ages which owes more to creativity than to reality. In many instances, the numbers were not used at all, but are the additions of modern historians, in order to differentiate identically named people. As an example, it should be reasonably obvious that the ancient Persian Shahs did not utilize Roman numerals to distinguish the various Darius' and Xerxes' from one another. Like the names themselves, the numbers should be taken with however many grains of salt you feel are necessary.
We live in a world in which nation-states are rigidly defined. Diplomatically, the 189 sovereign national governments are a complex interweaving of mutual recognitions and validated memberships in recognized international organizations (notwithstanding the fact that it's not quite that clear-cut, as the citizens of Northern Cyprus, Somaliland, or the Sovereign Order of the Knights of St. John will tell you...). Geographically, national frontiers are measured to the centimeter, and can be continually checked by global positioning satellites. As institutions, everyone knows what is meant by "Bangladesh", "France", or "Peru". But it is worth remembering that it was not always thus, and not at all long ago, either. There is a current perception that a nation-state is a noun, and as such should have a definite name. This is by-and-large a Western idea though, and would be regarded as somewhat odd by non-Westerners as little as just a few generations ago. Throughout this archive, you will notice a subtle tension between two disparate notions: on the one hand our desire (partially as a Westerner) to label everything I encounter with definite nouns, in the interest of what we imagine to be clarity - and the practice on the part of a great many non-European polities to treat as interchangeable and equivalent city names, dynastic names, national or tribal names, regional descriptors, and the like. In many other collections like this, data is organized much more closely to this model - see for example C. E. Bosworths New Islamic Dynasties (in print), or Friesian.com's website. Even in the West, some states (especially early ones) are less conveniently labeled than others - the Seleucid Empire, the Kingdoms of Lysimachus and Antigonus, or the DalRiada are examples. The point here is that this archive's method of organization is artificial to a degree, and you should be aware that many of the names we give might have only vaguely been acknowledged, or in some cases not even particularly recognized, by the people dwelling therein.
We have made every effort to correctly identify the various dynasties to which these rulers belong but, in much the same way as with my discussion about names and numbers, the term "dynasty" is fluid and not always easy to define. One thing must be said immediately; a dynasty is not synonymous with the word "family" in the sense that that word is usually used. A dynasty is a political entity, and while it often shares the genealogical attributes that we think of families as having, it just as often does not. For example, Queen Elizabeth II is a Windsor. She is the wife of Prince Philip, who uses the surname "Mountbatten". In the ordinary course of events, their children would bear the family name of Mountbatten. But her Majesty has decreed that her descendants shall continue to use "Windsor" in the direct line, and "Windsor-Mountbatten" in cadet lines. Prince Philip provides an example himself; tracing his male ancestry back several generations leads one to the old north German/Danish family of Oldenburg. He himself, though, is a Prince of Greece; and he has adopted the name of Mountbatten as an English translation of Battenberg, the style of a cadet branch of the ruling family of Hesse, his maternal relatives.
In many instances, ruling personages had no family names at all; the notion of a inheritable Name for a set of genetically related individuals is, after all, a relatively recent development. Throughout much of history, people have been more likely to be identified by noticeable personal characteristics, their professions, or the locality they are closely associated with (Yassir of the 5 o'clock shadow, Vladimir the Politician, George of Texas...). Under such circumstances, we have used whatever seems to be the most generally applicable and widely recognized name available. At times, however, there have been no useful labels; in these circumstances we have often applied a name myself, based on the earliest ancestor we could find, or the locality the group came from originally. Our method may not be academically pristine, but it at least has the benefit of being true-to-period. Once again, we have done what we could to be accurate, any errors or confusions are our own, and documented corrections are solicited.
We need to point out that none of us are professional genealogists, and do not have access to sources for that particular discipline. Although this website is devoted to an area of study which uses genealogy to a degree, it is primarily a prosopographical site, and should not be used as a foundation for deriving your ancestry. We cannot give much in the way of useful help in searches for family trees, and questions directed to us on such topics will normally be wasted effort. Bruce strongly urged people undertaking such research to start with the WorldGenWeb project. It is a vast series of links to regional genealogy sites, and he highly recommended it for developing resources and research strategies.
There is the general question of how entries are arranged. There is a great deal of material in these pages, and we are trying to conserve space by keeping pictorial files to a minimum. How then to make these pages look interesting, and provide an additional dimension of meaning as well? By going hog-wild with the font palette, of course... Here is a mock-up example of a fairly typical entry, showing how we use color...
NAME OF A STATE, REGION, or LOCALITY A description of the area, giving aids to finding it if it is small or obscure, together with a few brief comments about important historical or cultural points to consider. Not every place has comments yet, but we hope to add at least something to every area we deal with at some point.
Within the archive, we make use of a number of conventional abbreviations which hopefully shouldn't be too obscure in context. Nevertheless, to insure clarity, here is a list of what will commonly be encountered:
This site was last modified January 22, 2015. There have been a few minimal changes since then. As of December 2020, we are discussing how to maintain the site going forward.
Send eMail Comments, questions, and documented requests for revisions should be directed to the new Webmasters. There was some commercial advertising here and there in Bruce's Regnal Chronologies. No decision has been made regarding the recovered site but you may direct any questions to the webmasters.