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Who governs Europe? A new historical dataset on governments and party systems since 1848


Comprising 172 years of European history (from 1848 to 2020), the Who governs dataset provides comprehensive and highly detailed information on the partisan composition of European governments, matching these data with information on those aspects of party politics that can either help to understand the dynamics of the governmental arena or are under the direct influence of the composition of governments. Most of the variables represent fundamental and well-established dimensions of party politics, such as the number of new parties or the fragmentation of the party systems, but some, most importantly party system closure, are more novel. Variables have been designed so that they can be applied to a maximum number of cases across time. Currently the dataset includes 68 different historical democratic periods, 753 elections, and more than 1817 parties and 1586 cases of government formation.

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Fig. 1

Source: Casal Bértoa (2021)

Fig. 2

Source: Casal Bértoa (2021)

Fig. 3

Source: Casal Bértoa (2021)

Fig. 4

Source: Casal Bértoa (2021)

Fig. 5

Source: Casal Bértoa (2021)


  1. In terms of cabinets the main comparable datasets are Nyrup and Bramwell (2020), Sonntag (2020), EJPR PDY (2020), Woldendorp et al. (2011), Cusack and Fuchs (2003), and Döring and Manow (2020) (the latter does not include information on individual ministerial composition).

  2. To be found at

  3. For example, according to Polity IV, Greece was already democratic (i.e. achieved a score of 7) in 1864; however, governments were formed at the exclusive will of the King until 1875 (Dimitropoulos 2004). This is still the case in Monaco (Grinda 2007). Similarly, the UK had a score of 7 already in 1880, but it did not introduce universal male suffrage until 1918. Conversely, Denmark introduced the latter in 1849 and parliamentarism in 1901, but it did not achieve a score of 6 in the Polity IV index until 1911.

  4. For this reason, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus is not included. Czechia and Slovakia are considered to be different entities from their Czechoslovak predecessor, and the same principle was applied to the Yugoslav Kingdom and its successors, Croatia, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia and Slovenia.

  5. In this context it answers Veenendaal and Corbett’s (2015) recent call to integrate micro-states into the analysis of (European) politics.

  6. According to Polity IV, France’s democratic history starts in 1848, and therefore the so-called First Republic is not part of the dataset.

  7. The 1971 ‘military memorandum’ left the party system almost entirely intact and therefore it is considered to be only a minor rupture.

  8. See

  9. Other datasets (e.g. Döring and Manow 2020; EJPR PDY 2020; Sonntag 2020; Woldendorp et al. 2011) record just two cabinets, one before and one after the Freedom Union left the government in June 2000.

  10. Gallagher (1991).

  11. On the basis of Sikk’s (2005) definition.

  12. For an in-depth explanation of how this variable is constructed, please see Casal Bértoa and Enyedi (2021: 150–152) or visit

  13. For details see Casal Bértoa and Enyedi (2021).

  14. A similar operationalization of polarization can be found in Powell (1982), Karvonen and Quenter (2002) and Casal Bértoa and Weber (2019).

  15. See

  16. Especially the Keesing’s Record of World Events and the Economist Intelligence Unit.

  17. We would like to thank here the financial support of the Nottingham Research Fellowship and the invaluable help in terms of source collection and language translation of 10 research assistants.

  18. The latter two datasets have a broader geographical scope but they are confined to the post-1945 period.

  19. The database will continue to be updated on a yearly basis.

  20. The number of democratic periods taken into account varies between 1 (most countries) and 4 (France and Greece).

  21. Based on Elgie (2018).

  22. The number of electoral cycles taken into account varies between 1 (e.g. Greece’s post-WWII Kingdom or Poland’s First Republic) and 35 (Switzerland).

  23. The number of cabinets per country varies between 1 (post-revolutionary Armenia and post-WWII Czechoslovakia) and 96 (France’s Third Republic).

  24. From the first decade of the twentieth century onwards there are at least five systems at each point in time that can be considered democratic.


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Correspondence to Fernando Casal Bértoa.

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Casal Bértoa, F., Enyedi, Z. Who governs Europe? A new historical dataset on governments and party systems since 1848. Eur Polit Sci 21, 150–164 (2022).

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  • Dataset
  • Elections
  • Europe
  • Governments
  • Institutionalization
  • Party systems
  • Political parties