Timeline of Power


According to the U.S. based NGO, Freedom House, only 46% of the world’s countries are free democracies.


The global financial crisis precipitates Occupy Wall Street, which spins off into an international movement against social and economic inequality.


Stanley Milgram conducts a famous series of experiments testing subjects’ responses to authority figures. Ten years later, Philip Zimbardo conducts the “Stanford Prison Experiment” studying the psychological effects of prisoner and prison guard dynamics.


The U.S. Civil Rights movement changes federal legislation and births leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X, as well as the ensuing Black Power movement.


The United Nations General Assembly adopts the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.


World War II and the Holocaust claim tens of millions of lives. Several countries develop nuclear weapons. The U.S. drops atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, effectively ending the war.


Italian political prisoner Antonio Gramsci writes several notebooks wherein he introduces the theory of cultural hegemony.


Max Weber writes The Three Types of Legitimate Rule and Economy and Society.


The Russian Revolution starts the spread of communism across Eastern Europe and Asia.


Mahatma Gandhi leads nonviolent protests across India, eventually freeing the country from British rule. The year of his death, the United Nations General Assembly adopts the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Ca. 1900–1937

Alfred Adler develops individual psychology and introduces power principles and concepts such as the inferiority complex.

Ca. 1890s–1949

Sigmund Freud pioneers modern psychoanalysis, the study of the mind.


Influenced by Arthur Schopenhauer, Friedrich Nietzsche writes several instrumental philosophical works and develops concepts such as “the will to power.”


Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels write The Communist Manifesto, an influential political text exposing class struggles created by capitalism and championing collective benefit.

Ca. 1760–1820

The Industrial Revolution shifts power in Europe away from nobility and into the hands of a new merchant class of industrialists and businessmen. Organizers establish trade unions to protect workers’ rights.


The American and French Revolutionary Wars give rise to many modern political and civil rights ideologies across Europe and the U.S.

Ca. 16th–19th century

The Atlantic slave trade brings West Africans to the Americas, forming the bloodline of European colonization and wreaking untold suffering and death for centuries.


Niccolò Machiavelli writes The Prince, a pioneering text about power and leadership.


Martin Luther breaks with the Church, establishes the concept of separation of church and state, and begins the Christian Reformation.


The publication of the Gutenberg Bible, the first mass-produced book in Western civilization.

1450 to 1600

The Iroquois League, the oldest association of its kind in North America, brings together a governing assembly of native American chiefs.


The first open air democratic assembly is held in the canton of Schwyz.


The Magna Carta guarantees all British subjects a trial by jury.

551–479 BCE

Confucius writes about “five bonds” distinguishing power relations, while Greece’s Classical period flourishes.

621 BCE

Draco, the “lawgiver,” creates the first set of written and enforced laws.

Ca. 8000–3000 BCE

Humans begin to use power to create governing structures.