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A Bibliography on Parties and Party Systems in Europe since 1945

Stefano Bartolini, Daniele Caramani and Simon Hug

The bibliography includes all titles published around the world on European parties and party systems since 1945. It covers all languages and types of publications. For the first time, articles in edited books are included. One of its most original features is the complete computerisation of around 11,500 titles and the coding of each reference according to several keys: the type of party, the country, the topic or approach, the publishing country and the type of publication. This coding process allowed for a quantitative analysis of the structure of the discipline in a comparative and evolutionary perspective.

1 Introduction

The first idea to produce a comprehensive collection of titles concerning political parties and party systems for all European countries originated in 1978-1979 when Professor Hans Daalder was appointed to the European University Institute of Florence. The project, sponsored by the ECPR, focused on "Recent Changes in Western European Party Systems" and meant to bring together some of the best European national experts. Within this group the idea of supporting research with a comprehensive bibliography germinated. During this period of work roughly 5,000 titles were collected for the time period 1945-1979. The project, however, was slowed down by the computing difficulties of the pre-PC era and by the great geographical mobility of the scholars working at the European University Institute. The second part of collecting titles took place 15 years later at the University of Geneva and, again, at the European University Institute. On the one hand, the computing facilities and the existence of international bibliographical sources made it easier to complete the collection. On the other hand, the amount of literature on parties and party systems had exploded. For the period from 1980 until today, in effect, roughly 6,500 titles have been collected.

The bibliography therefore includes 11,500 titles concerning European political parties and party systems since the end of World War II that were published worldwide. The two most innovative features with respect to the usual bibliographical collections are that 1) the bibliography also includes articles that appear in collective works and 2) all items are classified and coded by subject matter, party family, country or countries considered as well as by several other properties. Since the beginning, the aim had above all been to produce a bibliography that was comprehensive and covered all kinds of published material concerning all European countries with competitive elections. Second, the goal was that the selection of relevant material should largely be based on national experts' judgements regarding the quality and relevance of items. Finally, the bibliography was to be compiled and produced in machine-readable form. As a result of the coding of each title the bibliography can be consulted in an interactive way. Those titles which interest the researcher can easily be selected, and the computerised format allows easy and continuous updating.

2 Criteria for the collection of titles

When the collection was started, Europe meant Western Europe. The literature on parties in Eastern European countries was regarded as dealing with something essentially different from the literature on Western European systems. However, the situation had changed by the end of the 1980s when in the Western and the Eastern European countries articles about the new parties and party systems in Central and Eastern Europe started to be produced. From 1989 onwards, the bibliography also included titles on the historical Eastern European countries as well as on those which had emerged as a result of the geopolitical reshaping of the former Soviet Union, including Russia itself. We decided not to set up any linguistic boundaries; consequently, the bibliography includes everything that has been written about European parties from 1945 to the presence, not only in Europe or in the European languages, but anywhere in the world and in any language. For all non-English and non-French titles an English translation of the title is provided. The bibliography includes the following types of publications: books (i.e. monographs and edited works), articles in periodicals and articles in edited books. The last type of titles has never been included in standard bibliographical sources. This is not a major problem regarding those articles which are included in edited works dealing with political parties. However, a large number of articles dealing with party topics had been included in publications which had generally no direct connection with political parties. Apart from these types of publications the literature on parties and party systems was completed by adding a large number of other publications: conference papers, departmental or university publications and doctoral theses. These types of publications were included in order to cover earlier periods when the possibilites to publish were far fewer than they are today, to include countries with a particularly small number of titles and in cases when national experts insisted.

For the period 1980-1992 we carried out a test. A large number of national experts was sent a list of the titles dealing with European parties and party systems drawn exclusively from the standard sources we consulted: the International Political Science Bibliography, the International Bibliography of Sociology, the International Political Science Abstracts, the Sociological Abstracts and the ABS Political Science. We asked them for general comments and for further advice. Half of the reports stated that the list was still incomplete and that more expensive searching in national sources was necessary. After this had been done, roughly another 1,500 titles had been added. All in all, our "source strategy" was therefore eclectic: we exploited friendly-minded national experts (several ones for each country), we consulted national bibliographies compiled by colleagues, and we checked international standard political science and sociology sources. The final step in this "source strategy" was to check the reliability of our set of items. To this effect the footnotes of some hundred books dealing with European parties were checked. This work did not stop until the number of titles not found in our bibliography had dropped drastically.

To set up topic boundaries is probably the most difficult task for a bibliography dealing with political parties. The reason is that political parties are so central to the political processes of democracies that in principle almost any political science work refers to them in some way. There is hardly any political function, structure or process which is not linked to political parties. If all these titles were included a bibliography about parties would risk becoming a general political science bibliography tout court. It was therefore necessary to exclude a number of publications to avoid diluting the bibliography too much. The bibliography includes only titles which deal directly and explicitly with parties and party systems. It excludes party platforms and other political publications as well as work written by politicians. We also excluded the general commentaries on election results, on the political situation after the elections and on the general political consequences of the electoral results. A final problem was literature on parties and party systems that dealt exclusively with the United States, but had a theoretical importance and impact going well beyond the country context. Its broader theoretical significance led us to retaining them by considering this type of work as broadly comparative or general theoretical work.

3 The coding of the titles

The bibliography provides an instrument for easy and quick consultation of the database, and for an equally easy and fast sorting of the titles sought by the user. To make this possible we considered it to be necessary to code each individual item for a number of properties. Six key codes have therefore been entered apart from the usual bibliographical reference keys (i.e., author, title, English translation of the title, publishing house, year of publication, number of pages, journal, and so forth).

  • A subject code, indicating the sub-field of European parties and party systems to which the item refers:
  1. parties and party systems (general);
  2. reference works;
  3. history of parties;
  4. ideologies of parties;
  5. internal structure and processes;
  6. government regulation of parties;
  7. electoral systems and parties;
  8. elections, campaigns, issues, electoral strategies;
  9. parties and social support;
  10. parties, interest groups and social movements;
  11. parties in parliament;
  12. parties and government;
  13. parties in other arenas than central government;
  14. parties and international activities;
  15. party policies;
  16. other works.
  • A party code, indicating the party family to which the party dealt with in the titles belongs:
  1. socialist, labour, social-democratic parties;
  2. Christian democratic parties;
  3. conservative parties;
  4. communist parties;
  5. liberal and radical parties;
  6. right-wing and authoritarian parties;
  7. regional and ethnic parties;
  8. agrarian parties;
  9. ecological parties;
  10. left in general;
  11. right in general;
  12. centre in general;
  13. other parties; a category of "no party reference" works.

The classification of individual parties in the party categories was made in large part by the compilers who were striving for consistency with the country experts' suggestions. In cases where it was difficult to classify the parties or where no agreement existed we resorted to the "other parties" category (e.g., the Poujadisme). The coding by party families has the primary goal of facilitating the users' search for the available material on a given party. We do not claim that the classification made here is "correct", in the sense that it adequately describes the nature of the party. What matters most is that each party is consistently classified, so that the relevant literature can be found in the same category. In other words, the classification is instrumental in the search for material.

  • A country code, indicating the country (or countries) which is the object of the study. Whenever titles refer to up to three countries, they are coded with the specific country code. When the work makes no specific reference to countries or refers to more than three, it is regarded as a theoretical or generally comparative work. A further code was derived from this, that is, the nature of the approach:
  1. case studies;
  2. binary comparisons;
  3. ternary comparisons;
  4. broad comparative studies.
  • A language code, indicating the language in which the work is written.
  • A place of publication code, indicating the country in which the work was published.
  • A type of publication code, distinguishing between:
  1. monographs;
  2. collective works;
  3. articles in collective works;
  4. articles in periodicals.


4 The quantitative analysis of the literature

On the basis of this coding scheme we performed a quantitative analysis of the literature, its structure and evolution since 1945. This part of the work proposes an innovative analysis of scientific research on European parties and party systems. Instead of relying on qualitative and subjective criteria, we based our analysis on a complete inventory of writings and publications. This permitted us to systematically document and describe the literature across all its dimensions as well as its evolution over time and its coverage in space. It also aims at providing a series of guiding posts and landmarks to help researchers orient themselves. Which parties and party families have attracted most attention? From what perspective have they been studied? Which countries have been privileged and which ones neglected?

Figure 1 depicts the evolution over time of the 11,500 titles collected according to these criteria. It shows clearly that the total number of publications devoted to political parties and party systems increased constantly between 1945 and 1978. From then on the scientific output on this topic slightly decreased. During this time period there were hardly any erratic movements around this general trend. The 1950s can be considered to be the starting point of the interest in political parties. The end of the 1970s was the "golden age" of party research, as figure 1 illustrates. Almost one fifth of the publications in our database were published between 1977 and 1980.

The parties of a group of four countries have attracted the attention of many scholars: Germany (15.2 per cent), France (13.2), Italy (13.1) and Great Britain (11.2) are each the object of at least ten per cent of all studies. With the exception of Spain, all other countries appear with less than four per cent of all titles.

Important differences exist with respect to the attention given to certain types of political parties. More than half of all titles (51.8 per cent) do not refer to any specific type of party. In this part of the literature both general studies that do not focus on a particular party and works that deal with two or more parties belonging to different ideological families are included. In the other part of the references, there is a clear predominance of studies that look at parties of the left. The literature appears to have focused on socialist and social-democratic parties (14.6 per cent), communist parties (11.2 per cent) and the left in general (3.1 per cent) - in other words, more than half of the works refer to party families. If one looks at the right in a restricted sense (conservative parties, extreme right-wing parties and the right as a general ideological category), it appears in only 6.4 per cent of all works. One might add the Christian-democratic parties and the liberal-radical family in specific country contexts, but even then the total (14.7 per cent) remains markedly below that of the left. Less attention has been given to regional-ethnic (0.8 per cent) and agrarian parties (0.2 per cent). By contrast, the percentages of work devoted to the ecological parties (2.6 per cent) is astonishingly high and similar to the one of the conservatives (2.8 per cent), especially given the fact that these studies are all of recent origin.

More than one third of the scientific publications (34.5 per cent) on political parties are of an analytical or theoretical nature. Here one finds most studies on party systems either on specific countries or more generally on conceptual discussions. Another third of the publications stems from contributions dealing with the organisation of political parties (10.8 per cent), their participation in elections (12.7 per cent) and their social support (9.0 per cent). Within the remaining third, it is especially two topics - the ideology of political parties (6.1 per cent) and their involvement in the formulation of public policies (5.1 per cent) - that received notable attention. Studies on the history of political parties (3.7 per cent), their parliamentary activity (3.4 per cent) and their role in government (3.4 per cent) are less frequent. Only passing attention was given to the remaining topics.

Almost half of all our titles are written in English (41.6 per cent). Titles in German (18.9 per cent), French (14.2 per cent) and Italian (10.8 per cent) make up a much smaller part. Dutch (4.8 per cent) and Spanish (3.3 per cent) occupy the following ranks before languages which are used very infrequently. From the mid-1970s onwards, the predominance of English is even more obvious.

The four major European countries are at the top of the list of publishing countries, as they were as countries studied. Great Britain (20.3 per cent) is in the lead, Germany (15.8 per cent), France (11.7 per cent) and Italy (11.2 per cent) together publish a considerable share of all references. But they are joined by the United States (13.7 per cent) which publishes almost as much as Germany, the second biggest publisher in Europe. As was the case with the ranking order of countries studied, also here a significant drop-off after the four major European countries can be observed.

5 Conclusion

The work briefly described in this article will appear in the form of a book accompanied by a CD-ROM (Bartolini, Caramani and Hug 1998). The book contains the description of the criteria for the collection of the titles and the various technicalities involved in the computerisation of the items. It contains, moreover, the quantitative analysis of the literature on European parties since 1945. On the CD-ROM 11,500 titles are stored. A shorter version of the quantitative analysis of the literature can be found in Caramani and Hug (1998).


  • Bartolini, S., D. Caramani and S. Hug 1998: Parties and Party Systems. A Bibliographic Guide to the Literature on Parties and Party Systems in Europe since 1945. London: Sage Publications, forthcoming.
  • Caramani, D. and S. Hug 1998: The Literature on European Parties and Party Systems since 1945. A Quantitative Analysis, European Journal of Political Research, forthcoming.

For further information please contact:

Prof. Stefano Bartolini
Department of Social and Political Sciences
European University Institute
Badia Fiesolana
I-50016 San Domenico di Fiesole
Firenze, Italia
Phone: +39 55 46 85 408
Fax: +39 55 46 85 201

Dr. Daniele Caramani
Forschungsarchiv EURODATA
Mannheimer Zentrum für Europäische Sozialforschung
Universität Mannheim
D-68131 Mannheim
Phone: +49 621 292 1736
Fax: +49 621 292 1723

Dr. Simon Hug
Département de Science Politique
Université de Genève
100 Bld. Carl Vogt
CH-1211 Genève 4
Phone: +41 22 705 83 60
Fax: +41 22 705 83 64

Stefano Bartolini is Director of the Department of Social and Political Sciences at the European University Institute of Florence.

Daniele Caramani is a member of the EURODATA Research Archive of the Mannheim Centre for European Social Research.

Simon Hug is Lecturer at the Department of Political Science of the University of Geneva and currently visiting scholar at the University of California, San Diego.