(1,713 words)

1. Definition

The term aristocracy (literally “rule of the best”), which originated in Ancient Greek political theory, has had three meanings since the Late Middle Ages: (1) from Aristotelian theory of forms of government, it denoted legitimate and just rule (Authority) in pursuit of the common good by a minority considered outstanding through a claim to virtue - this was in contrast to monarchy and democracy and, at least in self-presentation, to ol…

Cite this page
Weber, Wolfgang E.J., “Aristocracy”, in: Encyclopedia of Early Modern History Online, Editors of the English edition: Graeme Dunphy, Andrew Gow. Original German Edition: Enzyklopädie der Neuzeit. Im Auftrag des Kulturwissenschaftlichen Instituts (Essen) und in Verbindung mit den Fachherausgebern herausgegeben von Friedrich Jaeger. Copyright © J.B. Metzlersche Verlagsbuchhandlung und Carl Ernst Poeschel Verlag GmbH 2005–2012. Consulted online on 24 March 2018 <>
First published online: 2015
First print edition: 20160321

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