, Volume 68, Issue 2, pp 483–503 | Cite as

The Complexity of the Empire Colouring Problem

  • Andrew R. A. McGrae
  • Michele ZitoEmail author


We investigate the computational complexity of the empire colouring problem (as defined by Percy Heawood in Q. J. Pure Appl. Math. 24:332–338, 1890) for maps containing empires formed by exactly r>1 countries each. We prove that the problem can be solved in polynomial time using s colours on maps whose underlying adjacency graph has no induced subgraph of average degree larger than s/r. However, if s≥3, the problem is NP-hard even if the graph is a for forests of paths of arbitrary lengths (for any r≥2, provided \(s < 2r - \sqrt{2r + \frac{1}{4}}+ \frac{3}{2}\)). Furthermore we obtain a complete characterization of the problem’s complexity for the case when the input graph is a tree, whereas our result for arbitrary planar graphs fall just short of a similar dichotomy. Specifically, we prove that the empire colouring problem is NP-hard for trees, for any r≥2, if 3≤s≤2r−1 (and polynomial time solvable otherwise). For arbitrary planar graphs we prove NP-hardness if s<7 for r=2, and s<6r−3, for r≥3. The result for planar graphs also proves the NP-hardness of colouring with less than 7 colours graphs of thickness two and less than 6r−3 colours graphs of thickness r≥3.


Colouring Planar graphs NP-hardness Algorithms 


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Computer ScienceUniversity of LiverpoolLiverpoolUK

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