The concept of the capital city is a fairly simple one.
It’s generally the location of a country’s government,
usually with some sort of historical significance.
伦敦 巴黎 罗马
London, Paris, Rome –
we think of these cities as the unchanging bedrock of their countries.
However, while the single, fixed capital may be the norm now,
this wasn’t always the case.
Throughout history, and especially in Medieval Europe,
kingdoms would often change their capital on a regular basis.
Reasons for changing the capital city were plentiful,
whether it be a more strategic location,
a more neutral/central location to promote unity,
or sometimes simply the location of the current monarch.
Some countries literally changed their capital dozens of times throughout their long history.
One country that has changed its capital numerous times
in its several thousand years of existence, is China.
Although the constantly changing capital cities in this case
was mostly due to the country’s turbulent past,
the ever-changing dynasties,
and the multiple divisions and unifications of China.
今天 中国现代首都的名字 北京
Today, the name of the modern-day capital of China, Beijing,
literally means “ northern capital”.
Of course, three other cities are recognized
as historical capitals of China – Nanjing, Luoyang, and Xi’an.
In fact, Nanjing means southern capital,
while Luoyang and Xi’an have both been called “Xijing” in the past,
meaning western capital.
And Luoyang has, at another time,
also been called “ Dongdu ”, or eastern capital,
given its location with respect to the rest of the territory of the ruling dynasty.
The practice of changing capitals largely fell out
of use in Europe before the end of the Middle Ages,
but in China this continued even as recently as the last century.
由于战争 入侵和敌对政府 中华民国曾数次迁都
The Republic of China changed its capital several times due to war, and invasion, and rival governments.
Obviously countries changing their capital is somewhat rare these days,
but it does still happen.
实际上 在2018年12月 布隆迪就将首都从布琼布拉改为基特加
In fact, Burundi changed its capital from Bujumbura to Gitega as recently as December 2018.
Some countries don’t actually
have their government in what they call their capital city,
or only have part of it there,
making it even harder to say what a capital city actually…is.
In this way, some countries can be thought of
having more than one capital city,
and there are actually quite a few examples of them.
We’ll start by looking at the Netherlands.
While the country’s constitution states that Amsterdam is the nation’s capital,
its seat of government is actually in The Hague,
and therefore the de facto capital,
where most countries have their embassies.
The reason for this dates all the way back to 1588,
shortly after the establishment of the Dutch Republic,
when the newly declared country finally set its government in the Hague.
At this time,
Amsterdam was actually still loyal to Spain
given the trade opportunities that this choice offered,
so obviously it couldn’t be the capital of the ‘ rebel ’ state,
as they were still seen at the time.
Over time, power in the Dutch Republic became concentrated in the stadtholder,
whose political base the Orangists,
were primarily centered in rural areas and The Hague;
meanwhile, republicans tended to be more dominant in cities,
and especially Amsterdam.
This conflict dominated Dutch politics
until Napoleon invaded and established the Kingdom of Holland;
his brother Louis was crowned in Amsterdam,
setting it as capital of the region for the first time in history.
After Napoleon’s defeat,
the seat of government for the region was moved back to The Hague,
and the Great Paris created the
precursor to the modern monarchist Kingdom of the Netherlands.
In a similar situation to the Netherlands,
Sucre is the official, constitutional capital of Bolivia,
while the country’s seat of government is La Paz… mostly.
The executive and legislative powers of the country are centered in La Paz,
since both the President and Legislative Assembly are based there.
However, the Judiciary is centered in Sucre,
the result of a compromise during the writing
of the most recent Bolivian Constitution.
Whether or not La Paz can be classed as a capital city
is relevant for the city’s ‘ claim to fame ’,
so to speak,
as the highest capital city in the world.
La Paz is at an altitude of 3,650m above sea-level,
which is an incredible 41 % the height of Mt Everest.
Of course, many will argue La Paz is not officially the capital of Bolivia,
in which case,
Quito Ecuador would be the highest capital in the world,
at a slightly less impressive 2,850m above sea-level.
There are still more countries that arguably have two capitals cities,
including Malaysia, Benin,
斯里兰卡 智利 甚至更多
Sri Lanka, Chile and even more still.
Believe it or not though,
there is actually one country that has more than two capital cities.
South Africa has three!
Pretoria is the executive capital,
where most foreign embassies are located;
Bloemfontein is the judicial capital and seat of the Supreme Court of Appeal;
and Cape Town is the legislative capital,
and seat of parliament.
None of these cities are the country’s largest, by the way,
which is Johannesburg,
which is also the location of the Constitutional Court.
This bizarre situation dates back to the foundation
of the Union of South Africa in 1910,
when 4 British colonies united to become a semi-independent dominion under the British Crown.
3 of the 4 colony capitals became a capital of the dominion.
Pietermaritzburg, capital of Natal,
was the only one not be become a national capital,
which apparently received some financial compensation.
The decision for this was made
as a compromise to ensure no one city had too much power.
More than a century later and the capital cities have remained constant.
Now, at the opposite end of the spectrum,
there is actually one country that has no capital city:
the small, Pacific island-nationof Nauru.
Well, it doesn’t actually have any cities, just districts.
The Yaren district is the seat of government
and therefore the de facto capital…
with a population of about 800 people.
It could be argued that there actually are more countries without a capital.
For example, Switzerland doesn’t officially have a capital city.
Bern is technically a “ federal city ”,
which is the seat of government
and universally accepted as the nation’s capital,
but nowhere in the Swiss constitution or any of its laws
does it state the city as its capital.
There are a couple of cities in the world which are politically disputed,
which single city is claimed by more than one party.
On the Mediterranean island of Cyprus, its capital city, Nicosia,
is claimed by both Cyprus, as well the self-declared,
unrecognised Northern Cyprus,
who actually only claims Northern Nicosia as its capital.
Cyprus claims the whole city as its capital,
and indeed the whole island as its territory,
but only has control over the southern part of the island and city.
Nicosia is supposedly the “ last divided capital city ”in the world,
and is separated by barriers,
acting as a de facto internationalborder.
The island has been this way since 1974.
Now, Nicosia isn’t the only capital whose status is unsettled,
and while Jerusalem is not practically a divided capital today,
its situation certainly is… complicated.
the current debate around the status of Jerusalem can be traced back to
UN plan for the partition of British-controlled Mandatory Palestine, Resolution 181.
This plan called for the separation of the territory into
both a Jewish and an Arab state;
however, Jerusalem was to be treated
as a UN-administered international territory
that wouldn’t belong to either one.
This decision stemmed primarily from
the importance of Jerusalem as a holy city to the three largest Abrahamic religions.
Of course, UN Resolution 181 was never put into effect;
after Israel declared its independence in May of 1948,
the surrounding Arab statesinvaded.
The aftermath of this conflict left Jerusalem
divided between Israel in the west and Jordan in the east,
with the Old City of Jerusalem being located on the Jordanian side,
right along the border.
After the war, both Israel and Jordan
annexed the portions of Jerusalem that they controlled,
which the UN strongly objected to.
Israel had already declared Jerusalem its capital during the war,
while Jordan proclaimed it its “second capital” several years later.
Until 1967, the city would remain divided;
however, after the Six-Day War,
Israel gained control of a large amount of territory.
In the aftermath,
Israel integrated both Jordanian-controlled Jerusalem
and a number of the surrounding towns that were captured,
today collectively referred to as “ East Jerusalem ”,
into the city.
Later on, in 1980,
Israel passed a law affirming that
“Jerusalem, complete and unified, is the capital of Israel”.
The situation is complicated by the fact
that the Palestinian leadership currently claims
East Jerusalem as the capital of their state,
although their current administrative center is,
for the most part, Ramallah.
Today, many countries maintain
the position that the status of Jerusalem as the capital of Israelis put into question
by the inclusion of East Jerusalem in its jurisdiction.
Most countries maintain their embassies to Israel in Tel Aviv,
withholding any recognition of Jerusalem as the capital
until a final status agreement can be reached.
In a controversial move in 2017,
US President Donald Trump officially recognised Jerusalem
as the capital of Israel,
with a new embassy being opened in May of 2018.
This was widely condemned by the majority, though not all,
of the international community.
奇怪的是 早在1995年 国会就通过了一项法案
Oddly enough though, a bill was actually passed by Congress way back in 1995
by stating that Jerusalem “ should ” be recognised as the capital,
but a waiver had been signed every 6 months
postponing the implementation of the law by all presidents until now.
Taking a quick break from international capital cities,
to briefly look at some sub-national capitals.
All 50 of the US states have their own capital city,
but they’re a bit odd sometimes.
For example, have you ever wondered why
New York City is not the capital of New York State?
Or why Los Angeles isn’t the capital of California?
in only 17 of the 50 states
are the the largest city and the capital city the same.
Only one of the top ten most populous cities in the US
is actually a capital – Phoenix, Arizona,
in 5th place,
which is also the only state capital to have a population of more than 1 million.
But why is this?
Well, there isn’t one, single reason, and it varies by state.
Generally though, a central location is preferred,
as many state capitals were established before the prevalence of motor vehicles.
capitals often were the most populous at the time of being declared,
sometimes before the now-most populous city was even founded in some cases.
A few random oddities of the US state capitals:
Olympia, the capital of Washington,
is the 24th most populous city in the state.
Montpelier, Vermont,is the least populous state capital with just 7,500 people.
Juneau, Alaska, is the largest state capital by area at 2,717 square miles,
larger than the entire state of Delaware
Carson City, Nevada, and Richmond, Virginia,
are the only two capital cities that are ‘ independent cities’,
administered as their own entity.
在弗吉尼亚州 根据州法律 所有的城市都是独立的城市
In Virginia, by state law, all cities are independent cities.
And… Honolulu, Hawaii is home to the only royal palace in the United States.
Of course, getting back to national capitals,
the national capital of the USA isn’t part of any of the 50 states,
it’s its own federal district, Washington D.C.
Now, Washington has got to be the most famous example of the phenomenon of the purpose-built capital.
A city founded for the sole purpose of
being the seat of government and the capital of the nation.
The idea for the new capital city was conceived back at the end of the 18th century.
Land was donated by the states of Virginia and Maryland along the Potomac River.
The district formed a perfect square of 10 miles on each side.
The district was named “Columbia”, which is feminine form of Columbus.
The capital city was founded within the federal district
and 3 of the commissioners named it “Washington”,
after the president.
The district was split into two counties,
Alexandria and Washington,
the Virginia- and Maryland-donated land, respectively.
In the 1840s however,
due to economic decline and fear that slavery would be outlawed,
citizens of Alexandria country increasingly wanted to be part of Virginia again.
Citizens petitioned Virginia to accept back the 31 square miles,
and in 1846,
congress gave it to them, leaving just the Maryland-donated land.
In 1871, the city of Washington
was merged with the other jurisdictions within the District of Columbia into one entity
and became known as what it is today, Washington D.C.
The plan of the city itself
was mostly designed by a French-born architect
who partly based his work on the designs of various European cities, including Paris.
The city is divided into four unequal quadrants
which intersect on the US Capitol building,
making the home of the national legislature the center of the city.
The overall grid system of the city is very orderly,
with numbered streets running north-south
and lettered streets running east-west.
Purpose-built capital cities are actually surprisingly common.
Another country that has one too, is Australia.
Disagreements between the rival cities of Sydney and Melbourne,
led to the creation of a new city being made as the capital, Canberra,
located geographically between the two.
It was built on territory ceded from New South Wales,
but it was agreed that it would be at least 100 miles away from Sydney.
Another good example of a planned capital city is in Brazil.
Rio de Janeiro was its capital half a century ago,
but an 1891 article in the Brazilian constitution stated
that the capital should be closer to the centre of the country.
The city, which was named Brasilia, was built in 41 months,
and officially became the capital of Brazil in 1960.
Brasília was chosen as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its modern architecture.
To end this video off,
I’m going to look at some random fun facts about capital cities.
is the only capital in the world whose city limits border two other countries:
Austria and Hungary.
Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia is the only
capital sited on a body of water that drains ultimately to the Arctic Ocean.
The closest capitals cities of any two UN members,
are the capitals of the two Congos
– Brazzaville and Kinshasa, of the Republic of Congo, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The cities are separated only by the Congo River,
which makes up a large part of the international border between the two countries,
and where both countries got their name.
San José is the capital of Costa Rica,
but “ San José ” is actually the single most commonly used place name in the world,
with over 1700 different places called San José.
the full, ceremonial name of Thailand’s capital, Bangkok,
is the longest place name in the world with 168 letters,
which roughly translates as
“天使之城 不朽之城 九宝之城
“City of angels, great city of immortals, magnificent city of the nine gems,
seat of the king, city of royal palaces,
home of gods incarnate, erected by Vishvakarman at Indra’s behest. ”
Approach it Bangkok, easier remember enough.
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