Note:  Do not rely on this information. It is very old.


Centralisation, the transfer of administration from local authorities to some department of the central government of a state. As a rule, the tendency to this transfer has increased with civilisation; and an analogy to it has been found in the increasing dependence of the whole body upon the brain, the higher we look in the scale of animal existence. In the earliest type of large states, the "tax-taking empires," such as the Assyrian and Persian empires of antiquity, the rulers demand contributions of men and money from their subjects, but hardly interfere at all in their local affairs. The dominion of ancient Rome, until the second century of the Christian era, was, in theory, a group of peoples, mostly either organised in city-communities or destined to be so organised when they should be sufficiently civilised under the presidency of the Imperial city, Rome. Their liberties were very various, and in most cases subject, to interference from the Roman government. But, in theory though not in practice, this interference was occasional and temporary. The rise of a trained Imperial bureaucracy (q.v.) and the frequent incapacity of the local authorities, especially in finance, gradually tended to throw the supervision of all details of local administration into the hands of the Imperial authorities at Rome. The great monarchies of modern Continental Europe, having arisen on the ruins of the feudal system and by the absorption of many separate states, have tended of necessity to substitute central for local control of administration. The tendency has been aided by the improvement of means of communication, and in past times by the theory (best, seen in Russia to-day and in the France of Louis XIV.) that all power centres in the monarch, and it is his duty us God's vicegerent to see that all goes right among his subjects. The writers of the French revolutionary school, again, were mostly desirous of a strong central government to crush the apparently irrational anomalies existing in different parties of France. All over the Continent, therefore, administration is very greatly centralised, though a reaction is of late years perceptible in France, and the Federal structure of Switzerland partly prevents the tendency from being fully realised. In England there has never been the practical necessity for unifying the nation, which has been felt in Continental countries, nor has a despotic Government arisen analogous to theirs. Still there has been tendency to control local bodies by Government departments, the creation of the Poor Law Board in 1834, of the Local Government Board, of the Committee of Council on Education, and, more recently, the transfer of local prisons to the Home Office being conspicuous instances. But of late years a counter-tendency has arisen. The concession of representative government with almost complete independence to Canada and the Australian Colonies, the movement for Home Rule in Ireland, the establishment of County Councils, and District and Parish Councils are examples of this latter.